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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 February 2008, 18:31 GMT
Hundreds of Pashmina goats dead
Pashmina goats
Pashmina goats' wool is prized for its warmth and softness
At least 600 rare Himalayan goats that provide the soft wool for Kashmir's prized Pashmina shawls have died of starvation, officials say.

Officials say thousands more goats face death after their desert habitat was blanketed with snow during the region's heaviest snowfall in 30 years.

Winter stocks of fodder have reportedly run out, as have emergency supplies sent by the government.

Pashmina wool is seen as the finest in the world.

Many regard it as second only in quality to 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.

Emergency supplies

"We have reports of over 600 deaths due to starvation so far, and the mortality is mostly among young ones," a senior official in the remote Ladakh region - near the border with China - told the Associated Press news agency.

He said the death rate could be much higher because the authorities were still unable to get emergency supplies to the worst-hit Tegazong area, where nearly 60,000 goats were starving and scores of pregnant goats had miscarried.

Farmers say that about 150,000 goats graze on pastures near the border with China where temperatures plunge to as low as -20C (-4F).

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

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.

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

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

Pashmina has a unique place among the handicrafts of Indian-administered Kashmir.

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



SEE ALSO
Kashmir's Pashmina goats at risk
05 Feb 08 |  South Asia
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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