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Return of the wild dogs
Sometime in the mid-70s, the government initiated the mass poisoning of wild dogs that terrorized farmers and fed on their cattle. Most of the carnivores were killed and soon forgotten. Now after almost 22 years, the wild dogs are back. This time the law is on their side. In lower Kheng region, Zhemgang dzongkhag, the carnivores are believed to be on the rampage killing cattle and giving farmers sleepless nights. Wild dogs are a nightmare to farmers.

Last year more than 36 cattle were lost under Goshing geog from the villages of Ngarang, Drimjang, Dumjang and Karmabii, which consist of few households, despite constant vigil. Many more cattle are believed to have been killed in Dumti, Barpong and Phuling villages. Similar incidents have also been reported in other nearby geogs like Langdubi and Ngangla. Most of these geogs are two to three days walk from the nearest motor road.

For farmers a loss of a cow is harsh since most depend on the animal for cheese and butter which they sell for cash and use the dung as fertilizer. Cattle can cost between Nu 5000 to Nu 15,000, depending on its breed. One farmer lost about 14 cows in Goshing geog. Most farmers have resorted to keeping cattle caged fearing more losses. The wild dogs prey in packs of 20 to 25. They are larger than the domestic dogs, and are of a brownish colour with a black nose and a black tail.

Farmers said that the only positive spin-off from the wild dog explosion in their geogs is the reduction of the wild boar menace. The wild boars in the area have reportedly drifted downwards into other geogs wrecking farmlands and crops.
The farmers of lower Kheng, however, are not alone grappling with the problem.

Forestry officials in Wangduephodrang say that wild dog attacks have resurfaced in Phobjikha and Kabji geog. Cases have also been reported in Thimphu Dagala area and in Changkha and Dagapela in Dagana dzongkhag. According to the Nature Conservation Division (NCD) it's been about three years since the re-appearance of the wild dogs.

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Anti-tobacco campaign
The sale of tobacco and tobacco products in the only duty free shop in the country has been banned from January, 2003. This is part of the continuing national tobacco free initiative programme. The Thimphu shop, however, will be allowed to sell the last hundred or so crates of Marlboro (red and lights), Benson and Hedges, 555, and other imported brands. "A ban on imported cigarettes will be ineffective as long as other regional brands are available in the market," a local resident added.

Another Thimphu dweller said that the government should first ban the sale of alcohol in the country. "Alcohol is a bigger problem and faster killer," he said.

To smaller shopkeepers the ban made little difference."People buy more Indian brands than the imported ones and as long as we share our border with India our blackers will always do us the service," a shopkeeper said.

Although 18 of the 20 dzongkhags have declared themselves tobacco-free, there are few places where one cannot buy cigarettes in Bhutan. According to an expatriate who travels frequently around the country, there is a "vibrant and lucrative" under-the-counter tobacco trade in all the tobacco free dzongkhags.

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Thrumshingla National Park provides CGI roofs to protect ecosystem
The Thrumshingla National Park, spanning across Bumthang, Mongar, Lhuentse and Zhemgang, is home to the endangered red panda, satyr tragopan, and some bird species which have become extinct elsewhere in the world.

However, their habitat is being threatened by human activities in the park region.

Every year hundreds of fir trees, the predominant vegetation in the area, are being felled for roof shingles, other house construction materials and fuel wood.

To stop the destruction of the habitat the park has provided subsidized CGI roofs to all the 20 households of Sengor, a village which is located at the centre of the park.

According to the park manager, all villages within the park territory and its buffer zones would ultimately be provided with CGI sheets. The Thrumshingla National Park, with an area of 768 square kilometers, was established in July 1998.


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