Farmers here are losing maize to both dogs and wildlife

Dogs: The villagers of Sarjung in Martshala gewog are not only struggling with wildlife but for the past one year have been grappling with an increasing stray dog population.

The dogs, according to the villagers, have attacked and damaged their maize plantations. In some cases, the dogs have destroyed more maize than wild animals like monkeys.

The issue was raised during the recent visit of works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden. The farmers informed Lyonpo that they have lost a significant portion of their maize to the dogs since last year.

Farmer Dorji Tshewang, 58, said a pack of dogs raid the fields and eat the corn even before they are ripe. They target young plants and even corn that is left out to dry.

He added that despite the dog control population programme conducted in the gewog, the number of dogs are increasing in the village because people are feeding the stray dogs.

“At least two or three dogs come everyday to the village and when they don’t get food from school, they attack the maize,” Dorji Tshewang said. He added that the dogs attack at anytime of the day unlike the wildlife which tend to be active only after dark.

Villagers claimed that their concerns have reached nowhere, and that they are getting frustrated.

The maize, grown mostly for self-consumption, is destroyed even before the harvest season. Each household loses at least half an acre of maize to dogs and wild animals every year.

“We don’t have any solution. We can’t kill the dogs. We’re not even sure if the electric fence will work,” a farmer said.

However, there are no reports so far of the stray dogs attacking humans or killing cattle. Villagers said that they are able to chase away the dogs for now, but fear the dogs may become bold.

“We’re surprised that the dogs, instead of guarding the fields from wild animals, are targetting our maize fields instead. We hope our voices will be heard this time since we’ve put up the issue to the gewog administration many times,” Dorij Tshewang said.

Meanwhile, livestock officials informed the minister that they plan to carry out a sterilisation programme within a month to control the dog population.

“But we’ll need the people’s cooperation since most of the time they don’t bring the dogs for steralisation because of religious beliefs,” a livestock official said. “They instead hide the dogs and even if we offer them payment to catch a dog, they don’t bring and we’ve to return without completing the programme.”

The minister asked the livestock officials to look into the matter promptly. Lyonpo Dorji Choden added that steralisation is one of the best solutions and requested the villagers to cooperate since killing dogs is not the solution.

The farmers agreed to cooperate this time.

Yangchen C Rinzin |  Samdrupcholing