India Says Hundreds Of Pashmina Goats Die In Cold
26 February 2008
Srinagar: Hundreds of rare Himalayan goats whose wool is used to make Indian Kashmir's famed pashmina shawls have died due to heavy snow and lack of fodder, officials said on Wednesday. The goats' pastures, spread over the mountains of the Ladakh region bordering China, have been blanketed by exceptionally deep snow and farmers have run out of fodder. 'Hundreds of pashmina goats, the young ones in particular, have perished due to the unusually intense winter,' Tsering Dorjay, chairman of the Ladakh Hill Development Council, said by telephone from the regional capital Leh. 'I visited some of the areas and saw at least 600 bodies of animals,' he said. The mountain goats produce wool for Kashmir's feather- light pashmina shawls, which are exported to Europe, the Middle East and the United States. 'Bad weather has played havoc with these goats this year. Most of the newly born failed to survive. Those who survived are now dying for lack of grass and fodder as their mothers have grown weak and produce no milk,' said Dorjay. The fodder in the area where the goats live has been used up and pregnant goats were having miscarriages. 'We have been sending fodder but the area is very vast, and there are a few pastures which are still inaccessible,' he said, adding that fresh grass will surface only after two months. Pashmina, a type of cashmere, comes from the fleece of pashmina goats that live in the high altitudes of the Himalayas. An estimated 150,000 pashmina goats live in the area. 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. 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. 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 lives in the same area.