Herders from Dagala bring their yaks for tshethar at Chamgang, Thimphu

Semchen tshethar tshogpa saves seven yaks

Instead of slaughtering, herders call the tshogpa to buy their unproductive yaks

Unlike a few years ago, where the animal life-saving associations had to plead to nomads and negotiate every time they wanted to save yaks from being slaughtered, the trend has now changed.

Association members now claim that they receive calls from villagers of Dagala gewog in Thimphu whenever they want to dispose their old and unproductive yaks.

“Villagers now bring their yaks until Chamgang and wait for the association members to come, negotiate the price and sell the yaks instead of slaughtering and selling meat in Thimphu meat shops,” a member said.

On September 21, members of an association called Semchen tshethar tshogpa received a call saying seven villagers wanted to sell their yaks. The members started looking for donors to save seven yaks.

Semchen tshethar tshogpa has saved more than 500 yaks since the group was officially formed in 2012. On September 25, they saved the seven yaks by paying Nu 45,000 a yak. The yaks were then taken to Pelala in Wangduephodrang.

The members claimed that they crowd sourced the fund through a social media platform, Wechat.

The tshogpa paid Nu 45,000 a yak

The tshogpa paid Nu 45,000 a yak

One of the members, Nim Dem, 59, said it was initially difficult to convince the herders but it has now become easier to convince them not to slaughter the yaks. “The herders have also agreed not to slaughter yaks that are pregnant or below five years.”

She said that the herders have also agreed to sell only five yaks a year from each household. “They slaughtered more than eight yaks a year earlier.”

Nim Dem also said that there were incidents where herders tried to make easy money by buying yaks including younger one from others at a reasonable rate and later demanding a huge amount from the association. “In such cases, people who contribute to saving the animals run out of fund when it is time for them to save the unproductive animals.”

The association members say that saving yaks have not been easy. “Seeking donation is a mammoth task,” Nim Dem said. “Transporting saved animals to a safer place, convincing people, and herders demanding huge money while the association does not have enough budget are the other challenges.”

Villagers of Dagala depend on yak for income. They sell dry cheese, butter, and yak meat. There are about 42 households that rear yaks. Some households have more than 200 yaks.

The herder, Dago Tshering, claimed that they earn about Nu 500 from a chain of dry cheese and a kilogram of butter while almost Nu 80,000 for meat from a yak.

He said selling off five yaks would be enough to sustain a year and many have agreed to sell only to the association even if it meant a loss for them.

“We don’t kill yaks because we like it but there is no option since it is the only way to earn a living,” he said. “People now wait for others who want to get rid off the yaks and when the number is large, we inform the association and sell the yaks to them.”

He said that they have stopped slaughtering yaks after realising that tshethar is a good deed. “Even the area that was cleared to slaughter yaks has seen a regrowth of trees and shrubs.”

The association has also rescued more than 15,000 fishes and 20 pigs.

Yangchen C Rinzin

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