Chencho Dema

PUNAKHA—In a race against time, the Animal Life Saving Association is on a noble and seemingly impossible mission—to save the nation’s pigs from the looming threat of turning them to sikam and phaksha.

An exemplary testament to their dedication can be witnessed at the Tshethar Tshogpa pigsties in Sirigang, Kabjisa, Punakha, where more than 140 pigs, including adorable piglets, have found refuge.

The magnitude of the tshogpa’s task is only expected to grow with time.

Since 2014, the association has been procuring pigs to ensure their safety. Their first pigsty, established in 2015 on private land generously donated by a compassionate individual, initially housed a modest number of pigs. As the years passed by, the pig population multiplied, leading to an overcrowded barn where approximately 138 reside.

To manage the expanding population, the pigs are housed in separate stalls based on their size. The male and female pigs are kept apart to prevent unplanned mating and subsequent piglet births.

Although some of the pigs were born within the sties, most of the current piglets at the centre have are those that have been donated by a few kind-hearted individuals.

The selfless members of the Animal Life Saving Association rely solely on public donations and contributions to support their mission, making rescuing more than 100 pigs an arduous endeavor for this modest non-profit organization.

To meet the growing demand, additional pigsties were built in 2018.

Despite the many challenges and inconveniences they face, the association remains resolute in their commitment to sheltering more pigs, with a fervent desire to expand the facilities if they can secure a suitable location.

Nim Dem, a devoted member of the association, said that most pigs are procured through public funds, while some are donated by individuals. However, as the number of pigs in their care continues to rise, the burden of caring for these animals has become increasingly challenging and expensive for the organisation.

Tragically, some of the pigs suffer from overgrown hooves, rendering them unable to stand or walk comfortably. The stench from the sties and food attracts swarms of flies, posing additional challenges for the dedicated caretaker, who must travel to town to collect food from various hotels to feed the pigs twice a day.

Caring for pigs proves to be more demanding than other animals due to their need for confined spaces where they pee and defecate. Despite the aspiration to provide pigs with ample space to roam freely, the ambitious project has been temporarily put on hold due to financial constraints.

When pigs succumb to disease or old age, the association chooses to honour them by giving them a respectful burial instead of sending them to a butcher.

Nim Dem said that the association is currently grappling with the pressing issue of finding a new location for the pigs, as the gewog administration of Kabijsa has ordered the sties’ relocation.

Several homeowners and commuters raised complaints about the unpleasant odour emanating from the sties, which were also constructed on wetlands.

Sonam Dorji, the Kabjisa gup, assured full support for the association’s relocation efforts, pledging to aid them in any way possible during the construction of the new sties.

While the search for a new site is underway, Nim Dem humbly requested understanding from the public regarding the temporary smell inconvenience.

Despite the many hurdles faced, the Animal Life Saving Association remains immensely grateful to the general public for their unwavering support and generous contributions, which have played a pivotal role in safeguarding these pigs.

The association continues to hope for continued assistance in their noble cause, as they persist in their unyielding mission to protect these cherished creatures from an uncertain fate.