Cashmere Goats in India Face Starvation

Aijaz Hussain in Srinagar, India
Associated Press
February 8, 2008

More than a hundred thousand Himalayan goats faced starvation after their desert habitat was blanketed with snow that also killed three people, Indian officials said this week.

The animals are known for producing prized pashmina wool and cashmere.

The government was trying to get emergency supplies to the area as winter stocks of fodder ran out after the rare snows—from the region's worst storms in three decades—covered pastures in India's remote Ladakh region (see photos) near the border with China, said Tsering Phuntsog, chief animal husbandry officer in the region.

"There is a strong possibility that many goats might perish if supplies don't reach them immediately," he said.

Unusual Snow

Nomads and Tibetan refugees herd the goats in the remote and barren area. Despite being high in the Himalayas, Ladakh usually gets almost no rain or snow.

"This is the heaviest snowfall in the last three decades in the region. Being a cold desert, Ladakh usually receives about 4 inches (10 centimeters) of precipitation in a year, but this year about 2 feet (60 centimeters) of snow has accumulated," said M.K. Bhandari, a local government official.

Phuntsog said some 10 truck loads of fodder had reached the area, while the air force was planning to airlift supplies by helicopter to the worst-hit Tegazong area, where nearly 60,000 goats were starving and pregnant goats had started aborting.

Cashmere

Ladakh is part of India's Jammu-Kashmir state. The highly prized wool is used to make famed pashmina shawls and cashmere, which takes its name from the region, and is a major source of revenue in the area.

The storms were not expected to seriously affect the global cashmere industry because much of the wool is now produced in China and Mongolia.

Meanwhile, the rest of Indian-controlled Kashmir reeled under heavy snowfall—ten feet (three meters) in some areas—and the main road linking Kashmir to the rest of India remained closed for a fifth day.

A soldier and two civilians working for the army were killed in an avalanche near the de facto border with Pakistan, said Amir Ali, a local disaster management official.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the area in its entirety.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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