You are here: Home > Bhutan > Topics > Economy > Yak Farming > Yaks in Bumthang
Bhutan Information
Bhutan - Economy
Yak Farming
Bhutan's Economy: Yak Farming
Bumthang: Water poisoning
Poisoning by plants or contaminated water
Yaklha: An integral part of Urap's culture
Bhutan's Economy
Ura A custom soon to be last herd of
Haa Yak Herding - A vanishing way of life
previous pageend
"Water poisoning" kill Yaks in Bumthang:
Yak Yak

Every year on December, Bumthang's estimated 5,000 yaks are beginning the descent over 1,000 metres to the winter grazing grounds in the lower valleys. Educating Yak herders is one of the preventive measures against "chuh dug" But some of the animals will not complete the journey, having fallen prey to what is known as chuh dug or "water poisoning".

Last winter at least a dozen yaks died of chhu dug in the dzongkhag which, according to the regional veterinary laboratory (RVL) in Bumthang, is considered more fatal and has a higher mortality rate than other livestock diseases, including the foot and mouth disease (FMD). An team of experts has visited upper Chokortoe to tell yak herders to take necessary precautions. The team has also visited Ura and Chumey.

Poisoning caused by a toxic algae
Bumthang An expert said that the poisoning was caused by a toxic algae called cyanobacteria, present in stagnant water. During migration to the lower valleys, water becomes scarce and yaks invariably drink from stagnant lakes, ponds, streams, and marshy areas where the poisonous blue-green algae blooms. The poison emitting condition of the algae is usually triggered by the first frost. The toxic compounds released by the algae affects the nerves and liver and the animal suffers from paraplegia (paralysis of hindquarters), abortion in pregnant animals, dehydration, diarrhea, and ultimately death.

"Ninety percent of the yaks that drink the poisonous water die," the expert said. Researchers at RVL are of the opinion that the poisonous algae probably lives at an altitude between 2,800 metres to 3,000 metres. Researchers said that, while the toxic agent had been identified, there was no past literature on treatment and prevention measures as there was no record of the disease in other yak countries.
Affected yaks are treated with antitoxins, a mixture of certain non-patent drugs, antibiotics and vitamins as part of a preliminary treatment regime, based on symptoms, established by the RVEC. As preventive measures veterinarians are also educating the yak herders on management of yak husbandry, avoiding and fencing doubtful drinking grounds and providing an alternative clean drinking source.

Yaks also die from the Gid disease and plant poisoning

The Gid disease is communicated to the yak through the excreta of dogs. It is a kind of tape worm that grows into a cyst (Coenurus Cerebralis) either in the brain or the spinal cord of the yak. Deworming and sterilising yak dogs and burning or burying the heads of Yaks that succumb to the disease are some of the preventive methods that have been initiated. Research in Merak found that there were about five known poisonous plants causing the premature death of the yak. These plants contained toxic PyrosIlizidine Alkaloid which 'affects the liver causing slow death. The yak consumed these plants for lack of any other vegetation during the severe winter months

A decade ago Soiyaksa yak herders sold as much butter as they produced to farmers in the lower valleys. Today, however, the once sought-after yak butter has lost its grip over its main customers in Paro valley. Yak herders find it extremely difficult selling the butter even when they go door to door to farmers' houses. "In the past they bartered butter for red rice now the herders find it difficult even to barter for the ordinary white rice," the pasture inspector of the dzongkhag livestock sector, Nidup Tshering, told.


Poisoning by plants or contaminated water

Poisoning by plants or contaminated water (locally termed as baduk and chuduk) is another major cause of mortality, especially in the central region (Dahl, 2000). Such disease conditions occur at the end of winter to onset of spring season when grazing resources are in short supply. Animals consume plants, such as Senecio species, which they normally avoid when other pastures are available. The Senecio species is found to contain Pyrrolizidine alkaloid, a highly toxic chemical (Winter et al., 1994)

Contributed by KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper


more information
About Bhumtang
Yaks in Bumthang
Trashigang-Thimphu East to west - Highway
Sacred dances in Bumthang: Ngang Lhakhang
Ura's Yakchu Festival Yaklha - An integral part of Urap's culture
Lhuentse and Mongar
Wangdue and Punakha
Paro and Haa
Photo Galleries
Bumthang's Valleys Haa Valley Haa Mule Transport
Videos: Rafting, Tshechu, Motorbiking, Roads ...
previous page Bhutan Home