Neten Dorji | Trashigang
Sakteng was once famed for woollen products. That was when the people in the gewog reared sheep in large numbers. Today, only a few highlanders in Sakteng own sheep.
Sakteng has been witnessing rise in human-wildlife conflicts. The instances of feral dogs attacking livestock have been increasing in the village.
Dorji Wangdi, 61, said that a pack of dogs attacked his sheep one night and killed all the nine sheep he had.
Last year, he lost 16 sheep in a night.
Another highlander, Rinchen Dorji, lost his 39 sheep last year to feral dogs.
“With increasing attack by feral dogs and wild animals, the tradition of rearing sheep is slowly disappearing,” said Tshewang Rinchen.
He said that last year, with support from Tarayana Foundation, 15 households received sheep to carry on the tradition.
“But this is not helping,” said Dorji Wangdi.
One of the highlanders said that after the closure of schools, stray dogs started attacking yak calves. “During school time, the feral dogs feed on leftovers.”
He said that there are more than 60 stray dogs in Sakteng geowg.
Sakteng Gup, Sangay Dorji, said that herders faced problems both from domestic and wild predators.
“When herders take their sheep along with to graze in summer, the foxes and wild dogs prey on the sheep,” he said. “And when they return to the villages in winter, sheep fall prey to stray dogs.”
He said that the trend of rearing sheep had gone down to 70 percent in Sakteng.
A highlander from Tengma village had more than a dozen sheep. “I now have just about half the number today,” he said.
He said that during his parents’ time, the whole community survived on sheep and each household reared more than 70 sheep.
Rinchen Dorji has only six sheep. Were it not for attacks by wild animals, he would by now have about 30 sheep. Probably even more.
“There was a time when people in the villages owned a flock of more than 60 sheep,” he said. “These days, we barely have enough wool to produce traditional fabrics.”
The people of Sakteng today import wool from Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, India.