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Feb 6, 2008
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Snow threatens Kashmir's pashmina goats

By
AFP
Published
Feb 6, 2008

SRINAGAR, India, Feb 6, 2008 (AFP) - Some 150,000 rare Himalayan goats whose wool is used to make Indian Kashmir's famed pashmina shawls are at risk of dying due to heavy snow blanketing the region, officials warned on Wednesday, February 6th.


Indian Kashmiri boatman sit inside their Shikaras during snowfall on Dal lake in Srinagar - Photo : Rouf Bhat/AFP

The goats' pastures, spread over the mountains of the Changthang area of the Ladakh region bordering China, have been covered by unusually deep snow and farmers are fast running out of fodder, the officials said.

"Around 150,000 pashmina goats are at the risk of death as their pastures have been covered by heavy snow," Tsering Dorjay, chairman of the Ladakh Hill Development Council, said by telephone from the regional capital Leh.

The mountain goats produce wool for Kashmir's feather-light pashmina shawls which are exported to Europe, the Middle East, the United States and elsewhere.

"All roads leading to Changthang are blocked and we're trying our best to clear the roads to rush fodder to the area," said Dorjay after attending an emergency meeting to discuss how to feed the goats.

Pashmina, which is a type of cashmere, comes from the fleece of pashmina goats which live in the high altitudes of the Himalayas.

Demand for the fine pashmina wool has risen sharply since India banned trade in shahtoosh shawls made from a rare species of Tibetan antelope known as chiru that are killed for their soft wool.

Most of the fodder in the area where the goats live has been used up and "if we are not able to dispatch more food soon the goats will perish," said Dorjay.

"We are seeking help from the army. I have prepared a detailed report for the ministry of defence for airdropping food in the area," he said.

"I'm hopeful the army will grant our request," he said.

The best pashminas need the annual growth of three goats to make one shawl.

The shawls are vital to the economy of Indian Kashmir which has been badly hit by a nearly two-decade-long Islamic insurgency against New Delhi's rule.

Craftsmen in Muslim-majority Indian Kashmir weave the wool into fine shawls that are one of region's main handicraft exports.

Authorities learnt of the problem facing the goats from nomads who travelled by foot to a small district office in Ladakh, Dorjay said.

The heavy snow -- coupled with unusually severe cold and the lack of food -- has been especially tough on pregnant and young goats, he added.

"Pregnant goats are having miscarriages and the young ones have been dying due to the cold," he said.

The winter pastures have also been suffering from a shortage of grass during the past three years due to a locust invasion from neighbouring China.

The wildlife department has opposed the spraying of insecticide for fear it might hurt the rare black-necked crane which inhabits the same area.

by Izhar Wani

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