Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

Lhuentse police charged two men, a 36-year-old from Thimyul in Lhuentse and a 30-year-old from Paro, for allegedly rustling cattle in the third week of November.

Villagers from Tsenkhar contacted Jangsa Animal Saving Trust (JAST) on November 7, inquiring if they had recently conducted ‘tsethar’ in the village.

It was reported that the villagers saw a few people gathering bulls for ‘’tsethar’, claiming they are working for Lama Kunzang Dorjee, the founder of JAST.

The people also claimed a trulku, Zhenphen Longdrol, was in the locality for tsethar activities.

The rustlers collected 26 bulls.

Jangsa manager, Sonam Norzin, said Jangsa board members, led by trulku Zhenphen Longdrol, were coincidentally on a nationwide visit to all the animal shelters and sanctuaries in eastern Bhutan at that time. “Our board members were visiting as a part of an annual post-care programme for animals released on tsethar to ensure adequate post-care.”

He said the Jangsa team, representatives from dzongkhag livestock office, the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA), gewog administration officer, and the police visited Tsengkhar gewog to initiate a detailed inspection and validate information.

It was learnt the team arrived at the residence of one of the suspects late at night and questioned him.

According to Sonam Norzin, the man initially denied that the animals would be sold to slaughterhouses, but after hours of interrogation, he revealed he sends the cattle to a person who is a direct relative of Makhep Penjore, who owns a slaughterhouse in Tsirang.

The suspects told the investigation team that the group had only planned to sell the animals to tsethar tshogpa to make easy money.

Sonam Norzin said tsethar tshogpa usually rescues animals that are bound for slaughter and not randomly. “They seem to call some tsethar tshogpas only at 10pm to purposely make an excuse that they negotiated with tsethar tshogpa.”

He also alleged cattle rustlers scheme to dupe innocent and devout villagers to part with their bulls in the name of tsethar, and later sell them to slaughterhouses.

The team then reported the matter to the police, charging the rustlers with deception and misrepresentation of tsethar, cattle rustling, and attempted larceny.

The 26 bulls were also handed back to their respective owners.

A desuup on duty at Tshochen village, Nima Chedhen, who was initially informed of the case by villagers, said the suspects had gathered cattle from Kharphu, Tshangphu, Tshochen, Tsenkhar, and Manang villages and arranged two jumbo trucks to transport the cattle. “After people found it suspicious, I called up the dzongkhag officials and informed them.”

Edited by Tashi  Dema