Unlike a normal adult pig, the pigs in a sty in Dekiling village of Radi gewog in Trashigang are feeble. With shrunken bellies and wobbly steps, it walks to the water trough that is dry. Swarms of flies hover around the sty.

The 19 pigs, rescued by a tshethar tshogpa group in Radi from being slaughtered, are sheltered at Dekiling.  Their condition, however, is no good.

The caretaker of the tshethar animals, Norbu, said that there is not enough food to feed the animals. “I feed them twice daily and give them water in the afternoon but it is not enough,” he said. “Compared to the local pigs, the pigs here are huge and eat more.”

He said that after several requisitions for food supply for the animals, a DCM truckload of maize was provided last year. “With that supply exhausted, I go around looking for banana trunks to feed the animals,” the 60-year-old caretaker said.

It was learned that there is no separate budget provided to feed the animals.

The caretaker is paid a monthly salary of Nu 5,000. “The money is not enough. After requesting for many times, they increased the salary from Nu 3,000 to 5,000,” said Norbu. “It is difficult for me to manage the food because the pigs eat a lot.”

Norbu said that he volunteered to give his land to build the pig sty since it was for a noble cause. “Tshethar tshogpa keeps on bringing pigs after another which is why I’ve now decided not to take in any more pigs at my place,” he said. “They keep bringing the animals but do not consider how they would be fed. The pressure then comes to me at the end.”

Norbu said that a tshethar tshogpa group led by a lam from Kurtoe, Kuenzang Dorji, established the rescue unit at Dekiling in 2006.

Another similar unit for pigs was also functioning at Bongmin in Radi since 2003. Today there are some 30 pigs in Bongmin.

The manager of the tshogpa in Radi, Tempa Lhendup, said that while the lam provides the salaries for the caretakers, they manage the food for the animals on their own.

He said that only during times of severe need, they request the lam to help.

He said that there are volunteers who come forward to contribute in both cash and kind for the tshethar animals. “We have other similar units for cattle in Udzorong which was also initiated by the lam,” he said. “Unlike other tshethar animals, who are left freely to wander in the forest, here we have put caretakers to look after the animals.”

Meanwhile, stray cattle are seen loitering in Phomshing area, a km away from Trashigang town. Recently, a bull, believed to be a tshethar animal had suffered a deep cut on its right thigh region.

Soldiers living in the area had managed to hold the bull and officials from the dzongkhag livestock sector were seen attending the wound.

Officials said that since the wound was a few days old, maggots had infested and it required constant dressing of the wounded area.

However, without enough manpower, no further dressing was provided. The bull is still seen walking along the stretch, bleeding from the wound.

Dzongkhag livestock officer (DLO), NS Tamang, said that the livestock division attains animals that are wounded and possibly infected with diseases upon the information people provides.

He said they manage to provide the treatment on time but with the limited manpower, it is difficult to reach all the places. “We make sure we send our team when a problem is reported but there are many cases where problems go unreported.”

The DLO said that besides the limited human resources, the division does not have a rescue centre to provide treatment.

He said that there are issues with tshethar animals because they are left unattended on their own. “While the intention is noble, there has to be a proper guideline protecting the welfare and the right of these animals.”

NS Tamang said that an Act on tshethar is currently being formulated and according to the draft rule of the Act, the tshogpa who saves the animals have to take full responsibility of the animals. “Once we have the Act in place, things would become clearer and the animals will also be benefitted in real.”

Younten Tshedup | Radi