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"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.

Contributed by KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper


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