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Paws and Preservation- Bhutanโ€™s Mission to Safeguard Its Distinctive Stray Dogs

โ€ฆโ€ฆโ€ฆ ๐’–๐’๐’Š๐’’๐’–๐’† ๐’ƒ๐’“๐’†๐’†๐’…๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’„๐’†๐’๐’•๐’†๐’“ ๐’‚๐’Š๐’Ž๐’” ๐’•๐’ ๐’‘๐’“๐’†๐’”๐’†๐’“๐’—๐’† ๐’…๐’Š๐’”๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’„๐’•๐’Š๐’—๐’† ๐‘ฉ๐’‰๐’–๐’•๐’‚๐’๐’†๐’”๐’† ๐’”๐’•๐’“๐’‚๐’š ๐’…๐’๐’ˆ๐’” ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’๐’†๐’‚๐’… ๐’ˆ๐’๐’๐’ƒ๐’‚๐’ ๐’†๐’‡๐’‡๐’๐’“๐’•๐’” ๐’Š๐’ ๐’‰๐’–๐’Ž๐’‚๐’๐’† ๐’‘๐’๐’‘๐’–๐’๐’‚๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ ๐’Ž๐’‚๐’๐’‚๐’ˆ๐’†๐’Ž๐’†๐’๐’•.

Ngawang Jamphel

Changkhyi Conservation Center, established by the Department of Livestock under the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock in Bhutan, serves as a dedicated breeding center for Bhutanโ€™s unique stray dogs. Currently, the center houses a total of 50 dogs.

Dr. Kinley Dorji, Veterinary Superintendent at the National Veterinary Hospital, Department of Livestock under the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, proudly announced, “Bhutan leads the world in the sterilization of nationwide dogs. Through an extensive campaign involving 100 percent sterilization and vaccination, our aim is to eradicate stray dogs from the streets in the coming years. This initiative ensures the preservation and promotion of Bhutan’s unique variety of stray dogs.”

Dr. Dorji emphasized that the stray dogs often found in places like Paro or Thimphu are likely not purebred Bhutanese dogs, as they often carry mixed genes from foreign breeds. To maintain the purity of the breed, the center selectively chooses dogs from all across the country, excluding those from the southern borders due to potential gene mixing with neighboring countries. All DNA testing is conducted in South Korea, and the dogs are equipped with microchips for identification upon arrival at the center.

Bhutan’s stray dogs stand out due to their distinctive features, including larger jaws, upright ears resembling those of a donkey, and a unique pouch attached to their bodies. Notably, these dogs have a robust immune system, making them less susceptible to illnesses compared to dogs imported from third countries.

Dr. Dorji said, “This initiative marks the first step in our conservation efforts. By addressing the issue of stray dogs in the streets, we aim to create an environment where Bhutan’s distinct variety of stray dogs can not only survive but thrive.”
The establishment of this sanctuary reflects Bhutan’s commitment to wildlife preservation and sets a global precedent in the humane management of stray dog populations.

Passang Wangdi, a staff member at Changkhyi Conservation Center, remarked, “The dogs here at the center are truly unique, showcasing impressive body strength and remarkable cleverness. Each canine possesses qualities that set them apart from the rest. Their robust physique and quick wit make them exceptional, and we take great pride in these distinct characteristics that make these dogs stand out among others.”

“Not only do they possess physical strength and intelligence, but their adaptability to various environments is also remarkable,” added Passang Wangdi.

The local stray dogs in Bhutan, not the breed at the center, have played an important role for farmers across the country. They safeguard crops and serve as companions.

โ€œSamrang Gewog, located in the southern part of the country, has most of its gewog area covered by thick forests, making the area vulnerable to wild animals. Dogs have played a crucial role in guarding crops from animals like monkeys and wild boars for the people of my gewog. Additionally, they have consistently been valuable partners for people in chasing away wild elephants,” said Arjun Rai, Mangmi of Samrang Gewog, Samdrup Jongkhar.

โ€œSo, the absence of stray dogs would make it extremely challenging for people to protect their crops. In my gewog, each household has, at least, one dog, emphasizing their vital role in ensuring the safety and security of our community,” added Arjun.

On the other hand, Samten Dorji, the Tsogpa of Tsotsalo Chiwog under Martshala Gewog, Samdrup Jongkhar, said, โ€œMy village is located in one of the far-flung areas in the country. Stray dogs play a crucial role, not just in safeguarding the farm but also as good cattle herders. Sometimes, we donโ€™t even have to go after the cattle for grazing; the dogs do it. They go with the cattle in the morning, and by evening, they guide the cattle back to the shed by themselves.โ€

Dr. Kinley Dorji also added that they will soon start distributing the breed to the general public for those who choose to own one. Additionally, every dog will undergo sterilization, and a chip will be inserted into their body for monitoring purposes.

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