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Tibetan nomads in Ladakh suffer as livestock die of infectious disease

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Ailing sheeps infected with the Foot and mouth disease in Duchik, Ladakh (Photo/Dolma Lhamo)

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, July 28: Eight Tibetan families and one Ladakhi family in Duchik, Ladakh have suffered huge losses to their livelihood as their livestock, over 1000 sheep, have died due to the infectious disease called the foot-and-mouth-disease (FMD), also known as the Serotype O. A Tibetan vlogger from Ladakh Dolma Lhamo started a campaign for the sudden demise of huge number of livestock. Dolma visited the affected Tibetans and documented their plight in a vlog she published recently on her channel.

“One of the nomads contacted me yesterday and told me that the death of cattle has significantly reduced for the time being; he said about 50 sheep die per day, but there are many infected with the disease that are unable to walk or function properly,” Dolma spoke to Phayul about the drastic change of events. The source also confirmed that more deaths have gone unreported as the Sheep Department only listed those that died near the farm, as many others died on the mountains and could not be carried back home.  

Tibetan nomads burying their dead cattle in Duchik, Ladakh (Photo/Dolma Lhamo)

One of the affected families in the video posted on Friday said, “The animals have been infected with worms in their mouths and feet. The hooves eventually break and fall off.  And once when you think they are getting better today, you’ll find their bellies swollen the other day and soon after they pass away.” According to VOT, the Department of Home at the Central Tibetan Administration was informed about the incident earlier this month and has since sent two Lakh rupees for the relief effort in the affected community.

The FMD is an air-borne disease. The nomadic families have moved away from their previous residence as staying in the same area could prove worse for remaining cattle due to the infection. The vlogger was also compelled to start a small campaign recently and said she is mostly focused on rescuing the remaining cattle who are still suffering from the disease. “I want to help the animals first with their fodder and medicines. I will be visiting the site tomorrow again and take the necessary steps to ensure how to help these nomads overcome the damage. They are entirely dependent on their livestock and will no longer be able to sustain themselves if things don’t get better,” she further elaborated. 

2 Responses

  1. Dolma Lhamo has done a fantastic job in alerting people to this situation but she must be careful when visiting now as bio – security for the area seems practically non existent and this disease is highly infectious. I am not convinced that it is Foot and Mouth Disease as the symptoms here are really extreme – with worms in the mouth and feet, swollen bellies and hooves breaking off. (We have had outbreaks in the UK and these are not the symptoms.) My concern is that this is a very extreme variant or a new disease. I hope the Indian Govt and Tibetan Govt in exile steps in super fast to find out what the disease really is and prevent the spread of this infection throughout the country.

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