Massive snowstorms in China’s western Qinghai province have destroyed entire herds of Tibetan yaks and left other animals at risk, threatening the livelihood of nomad families in the hard-hit region, Tibetan sources said.
The storms, which began in January and continued through early March, were the heaviest that area residents had seen in years, and killed thousands of head of livestock.
One storm this month killed almost all of the yaks belonging to one family living in the Damda area of Tridu county in Qinghai’s Yushul (in Chinese, Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a family relative said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Just a few days ago, heavy snow covered my relatives’ area,” the man told RFA early this week.
“They have over a hundred yaks, but the heavy snow has killed two-thirds of them, and the rest are in danger because of the continuous snow and cold weather,” the man, a resident of the area, said.
“Because they are nomads, their livestock is their only source of income,” he added.
“The weather cleared after a few days, so they can now carry some of the dead animals to the county town and to Kyegudo to sell cheaply. But since the road is blocked by snow, it is hard to get transportation.”
“And even if they can get the dead animals to market, they can get only 1,000 yuan [U.S. $158] for a large piece of yak meat that would usually sell for 5,000 yuan [U.S. $789],” he said.
“With my help, my relative was able to move five yaks, for which he got only 3,000 yuan. Most of the buyers were restaurant owners and local city people.”
'Heaviest snow ever seen'
Separately, a Tibetan living in India confirmed the report, citing contacts in the region.
“The heavy snow occurred mostly in Tridu county, including the places called Dzatoe, Dranchen, and Damda,” the man said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Local people say that it is the heaviest snow they have ever seen. Some families have already lost all their livestock,” he said.
“Now, the families are trying to move their dead animals to the city for sale, but this is difficult because of road conditions and the cost of transportation.”
Local government officials have asked the families to report their losses, but no rescue or temporary relief has been provided, the man said.
“Local people believe that the heavy snow, like the Kyegudo earthquake in 2010, is a natural disaster provoked by Chinese activities in the region—for example, mining gold along the Yangtze river, destroying holy mountains to build roads, and changing the direction of rivers to build giant dams,” he said.
A video posted online by a Tibetan living in the region meanwhile showed similar destruction in Gade county in neighboring Golog (in Chinese, Guoluo) prefecture, also in Qinghai.
The snow began to clear only on March 9, one man interviewed in the video said, adding that more than more than 4,000 yaks had died in his village alone.
Out of his own herd of 480 yaks, only 20 now remain, he said.
Reported by Guru Choegyi for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Guru Choegyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.