Nearly 300 yaks have due to starvation after being stranded in the cold desert regions of Munguthang and Tso Lhamu due to heavy snowfall in December 2018. The district administration could reach the affected areas only recently as it was cut-off from the rest of the world for months together. At least 10 feet of snow had accumulated in the areas which made it impossible for the officials to help the yaks.
North Sikkim District Administration even airdropped relief material such as grass, maize plants, flour, oil and salt for yaks but these attempts were unsuccessful. The locals had made frantic calls to the officials to supply them essential commodities, but it could not reach the yaks on time. Yaks are an essential source of milk, milk products and wool to the people in the area. The count of the yaks in the region has been estimated to be about 1,500, PTI reported.
"While carcasses of around 250 yaks were found in Mukuthang region, 50 yak carcasses were found in Yumthang" said North Sikkim District Magistrate Raj Yadav. The authorities are now medically examining the yaks that survived the harsh bout of winter. The district administration has also announced compensation for the families affected by the tragedy and a report on their losses is being jointly prepared by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the local officials.
"We made several attempts to reach them but couldn't. No roads or air transport could reach there because of the weather conditions. We reached there now and have already confirmed at least 300 yak deaths," he added.
The death of the animals in the regions of this magnitude has happened after more than two decades, the officials said. A similar incident took place in 1994-95 when an entire herd of the yaks was eliminated due to the extreme cold weather.
There were various bouts of snowfall this time around due to which the grass couldn't grow and since there was no food available, yaks starved and died, the officials added. Yaks die every year when the region is hit by snowstorms, but the death toll this year was unexpected. Efforts are now afoot to make arrangements for the burial of the dead yaks.