Conflict: Tigers continue killing cattle in Weeling village under Nubi gewog in Trongsa. Tigers have already killed a number of cattle this year.
Thinley Norbu, 59, lost eight cattle to tigers this year alone. He said two pregnant cows, bulls and calves were killed by tigers. “I could not even get meat off most of them,” he said.
Thinley Norbu said the dzongkhag has stopped paying compensation for cattle lost to tigers. “I would have got a good amount of compensation this year if the dzongkhag was still paying,” he said.
One of his calves was also injured recently after a Himalayan black bear attacked it, along with another calf belonging to Thinley’s neighbour.
Thinley Norbu was herding cattle when he saw a bear dragging one of his calves down the slope. That was about two weeks ago.
“The bear dragged the calf down the hill and I followed shouting,” he said. The bear let go and left the injured calf behind.
Thinley Norbu said he has also stopped reporting such cases to the dzongkhag since it stopped paying compensation some three years ago.
Rinchen Dorji, 48, said a tiger killed and ate one of his calves on his fields. The tiger also killed a heifer two months ago. “Tigers are not around the village all the time,” he said, but pointed out that they do kill cattle whenever they return.
Pelden Dorji, 40, said villagers have to herd cattle everyday due to the threat from tigers, bears and sometimes even leopards. “We can’t leave our cattle unattended like in the past,” he said.
He added that villagers used to take their cattle to graze on grasslands in the highlands but that cattle tend to return to the village themselves sensing danger. “Cattle sense the dangers,” he said.
The people of Weeling village are concerned about being attacked by marauding bears that are not only targeting their farm animals but some of their crops as well.
A man was mauled by a bear in the village recently and is currently still undergoing medical treatment at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in Thimphu.
Pelden Dorji, 40, said that the bears pose a danger to the people of the village. “It’s dangerous especially for the school-going children and women in the village,” he said.
Pelden Dorji said the bears roam the areas between his village and Sherubling. He also pointed out that the bears had killed all the sheep in the village. “It was very rare seeing bears in the village in the past but it’s become common since some 20 years ago,” he said. He recently saw three bears above his village.
Nakchung, 43, said one of the bears sleeps in the village feeding on peach and maize. “There are three bears but they don’t usually come out during the daytime,” he said.
Thinley Norbu said tigers kill their cattle and the bears scavenge on the carcasses left by tigers. “If a cow is lost during the night, only its bones will be left the next day,” he said.
He added that he used to earn a good amount of money by selling peach. However, the bears have destroyed his peach trees, he said.
The most recent sighting of a bear in the village was on August 14. Villagers were able to chase the bear away but only with much difficulty.
Pelden Dorji claimed the government imposed fines on those who killed bears but never compensated farmers who lost cattle to the wild animals. “If we go by such rules, the government should be looking after the wild animals like how we herd our cattle,” he said.
“The government should pay us compensation if the wild animals are to be kept undisturbed,” he said, adding that despite the harm caused, the government keeps telling them not to kill the wild animals. “It’s ridiculous,” he said.
He also cited an example of when the government paid compensation of about Nu 100,000 when a tiger killed a man at Drjigonpa. In another incident, the person who had killed a tiger in the gewog was imposed a fine more than Nu 1M, he said. “This shows that the tigers are more important than us,” he said.
It’s learnt that compensation payment was discontinued as the funding project expired.
Dzongkhag officials could not be contacted.
Nima Wangdi | Weeling
Associazione Amici del Bhutan - Italy