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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 February 2008, 16:46 GMT
Kashmir's Pashmina goats at risk
By Altaf Hussain
BBC News, Srinagar

Pashmina goats
Pashmina goats' wool is prized for its warmth and softness
Tens of thousands of goats that provide the wool for Kashmir's world famous Pashmina shawls are facing death because of unexpectedly cold weather.

Winter pastures used by the Pashmina goats in the Ladakh region of Indian-administered Kashmir have been covered in snow, officials say.

Fodder provided by the government has also reportedly run out.

Embroidered shawls made from Pashmina wool are among Kashmir's best-known handicrafts and are exported worldwide.

Many regard Pashmina wool as the finest in the world after that of the chiru antelope, also found in the northern Himalayas.

International trade in shahtoosh shawls made from the wool of the chiru, or Tibetan antelope, has been banned to protect the endangered species.

Airdrop request

According to Tsering Dorjay, a senior official in Ladakh, some 150,000 Pashmina goats had been affected by the shortage of food.

Of these, 100,000 goats were at risk of death if fodder could not be provided immediately.

Unusually this year, winter pastures in the Changthang area, bordering China, had been covered in snow, officials said.

Moreover, they said stocks of winter fodder provided by the administration had already been exhausted.

The problem facing the Pashmina goats was brought to the authorities' attention by nomads who had travelled by foot to a district office.

Local officials have asked India's defence ministry to airdrop fodder into areas which are cut off by heavy snowfalls.

The administration is also short of lorries to rush emergency supplies to areas that remain accessible by road.

Locust invasion

The Pashmina goats grow a fleece during the winter to cope with adverse weather.

Malnourishment and exceptionally cold conditions have hit them hard this year.

"The pregnant goats have been having miscarriages and the young ones, up to one-year-old, have been dying because of the cold," Mr Dorjay says.

Even before the unexpected snowfall, the Changthang area was facing a shortage of grass in the pastures because of an invasion of locusts over the past three years.

Concern for the welfare of the rare black-necked crane led to wildlife department restrictions on the spraying of insecticides.

Pashmina has a unique place in Kashmir's handicrafts industry.

Shawls woven and embroidered in Kashmir valley are exported to Europe, the Middle East and other parts of the world.

Microchip shawls to save wildlife
25 Jun 07 |  South Asia
Fears grow for rare antelope
09 Apr 03 |  Science/Nature
Ban devastates shahtoosh workers
03 Jul 00 |  South Asia

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