Spiti Valley is witness to rapid socio-economic change. Free-ranging dogs appear to be unlikely beneficiaries of such change. All this is leading to a set of challenges, otherwise unknown to this remote valley.
Collective efforts by the Community
A predominantly agro-pastoralist community, people of Spiti rely heavily on rearing livestock. The past few decades have seen rapid socio-economic changes through the valley. A blossoming, resource-intensive tourism business coupled with the lack of effective garbage management measures have helped a group of unlikely beneficiaries: free-ranging dogs.
Availability of resources have helped their steady rise to a population ranging between 700-750 individuals, during a count in 2012. Free-ranging dogs also hunt livestock now. Such is the scale of damage in the last three years (2012-14) that, free-ranging dogs killed more sheep and goat, than snow leopards and wolves combined. Several villagers have stopped rearing sheep and goat for the fear of losing them to dogs.
In October 2013, led by an appeal to address the issue, a collaborative effort to address this challenge was initiated by local Panchayats that was supported by the Forest Department, the Animal Husbandry Department and locally active NGOs. Since then, we have collectively managed to sterlise and vaccinate over 275 dogs, across 6 villages. The local community supported by ensuring that each house operated at least one dog and ensured adequate post-operative care. The efforts to sterlise dogs continues.
In addition, we have also begun testings better garbage management measures in 5 villages. A sizable effort is also spent on raising awareness on this issue, within the local community.