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GAUHATI, India (AP) — At least 300 rare Himalayan yaks have died of starvation in the high mountains in the northeastern Indian state of Sikkim, close to the border with China, authorities said Saturday.
A team of local administrators and veterinarians visiting the heights of Muguthang and Yumthang in northern Sikkim discovered the animals' corpses on Friday, said government official Raj Yadav. He said the semi-domesticated animals became trapped in December after their passage to the nearest village got blocked due to heavy snowfall.
Yadav said authorities tried several times to drop feed for the Yaks by helicopter but failed due to inclement weather. "The passage was cleared five days ago, after which our team trekked to the area to discover the tragedy," he said.
The areas of Muguthang and Yumthang are favorite grazing grounds for yaks in the region.
Yadav said the government would compensate the yak owners with 30,000 Indian rupees ($430) per yak up to a maximum of three yaks per family.
"There has been human interference like construction of roads in the area," said Usha Lachungpa, a conservationist in Sikkim. "Snow sliding down and blocking roads could be a result of such activities."
It could take a long time for the area's yak population to grow and reach the level before the recent catastrophe, she said.
Villagers living in the Himalayan foothills of northeastern India heavily depend on livestock, mainly yaks, goats and sheep, for their livelihoods and to feed their families.
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