GANGTOK, Nov 14 � The rising population of feral dogs running in wild packs is causing ecological problems in the higher reaches of Sikkim and requires concerted effort to restore balance.
Forest officials have raised concern in the past and Sikkim Anti-Rabies and Animal Health programme (SARAH) has attempted to address this problem, but cooperation from all stakeholders are needed for a sustainable solution to the problem, Dr Thinlay N Bhutia, Programme Coordinator of SARAH Division of the Animal Husbandry department, said today.
Bhutia said the number of feral dogs which had grown in open as camp-dogs of security forces and local communities have outgrown camps and moved out.
�As these dogs have been breeding unchecked, their population has increased rapidly and many now live in the wildlife parks and cold desert areas, largely independent of humans. The situation has been further aggravated by the improper garbage management of security forces and communities as more garbage will attract and provide food for more dogs and sustain bigger populations,� Bhutia said.
�It is a fact that these feral dogs are having a negative impact on endangered endemic wildlife such as the Bharal (Himalayan Blue Sheep), Red Panda, Shapi (Himalayan Tahr) and Kiang (Tibetan Wild Ass) by hunting them. The dogs are also competing with the Snow Leopard and Tibetan Wolf for scarce food resources and as these dogs hunt in large packs they have a significant advantage over the leopard or wolf,� he said.
The SARAH Division is implementing a feral dog control/wildlife conservation programme in the State. This flagship programme under SARAH, which was started in April 2008, has carried out numerous programmes in various places where more than 3,000 feral dogs have been sterilised, vaccinated and given veterinary care, he said.
But the problem could be effectively solved by a range of coordinated measures including dog population management through family planning, pet registration and responsible pet ownership, habitat/ food source control (proper garbage/ waste disposal programme) and rabies control through systemic administration of anti-rabies vaccination.
For the success of the measures, cooperation from all stakeholders are needed, he said. Many places like Lachung, Bichuu, Chaten, Yumthang in North Sikkim have already been covered by such schemes in collaboration with different stakeholders like the Army and paramilitary units posted there. In East Sikkim, in collaboration with the Forest department and World Wildlife Fund, places like Phadamchen, Zuluk, TR Junction, AP Salami, Tamzey, Kyonglasla have been covered, he said.
One team of SARAH has been working in Lachen area from the last week of October 2014, Bhutia said. � PTI