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Heartrending tragedy strikes Serchhip’s gayal farmers

Representational image

Aizawl: In the picturesque hills of central Mizoram’s Serchhip district, two villages are grappling with an unimaginable loss, as their cherished gayals or mithuns fall prey to relentless packs of wolves.
Since 2020, a staggering 137 gayals have been cruelly taken away from their families, leaving the communities heartbroken, with approximately 20 more still missing.
For the villagers of Sailulak and Leng, the bond with their gentle giants ran deep. These majestic creatures, a symbol of tradition and livelihood, were lovingly raised by families in the villages since 2017. 
Lalramthanga, chairman of Sailulak Sial Vulh Association (SSVA) or association of Gayal rearers in Sailulak village, said that some families in the village began raising gayals as livelihood since 2017.
“At least 46 families have been engaged in gayal farming as of now and are rearing over 300 gayals,” Lalramthanga said.
Tragedy struck during the late months of 2020 when the haunting howls of wolves pierced the once serene landscape, signaling the beginning of the nightmare. Devastated families saw eight of their beloved gayals fall victim to the vicious predators that year. 
The attacks escalated in 2021 and 2022, claiming the lives of 16 and 30 gayals, respectively, Lalramthanga said.
To make matters worse, the distressing discovery of 12 gayal carcasses in the current year has left the villagers mourning with heavy hearts, hoping against hope for the safe return of over 20 still missing.
In the face of such heartbreaking losses, the villagers turned to the state’s environment, forests, and climate change department for help. However, the compensation offered – a mere Rs 30,000 for one gayal, and that too limited to only three gayals per family – proved woefully inadequate to ease their pain and troubles.
Neighbouring Leng village shared in the sorrow, losing 31 of their cherished gayals since 2021. 
F Rohlupuia, secretary of the Mithun Cooperative Society Limited, said that the village’s 24 gayal-rearing families nurtured a total of 135 gayals. The relentless attacks by the wolf packs claimed approximately 60 lives in 2021 and 2022 alone, with an agonizing 11 more gayals lost this year, he said.
Officials from the state’s animal husbandry and veterinary department acknowledged the deep-rooted cultural significance of gayals, having been domesticated in the region for over a century. The villages of Serchhip, nestled along the border with Myanmar, have long cherished and cared for these magnificent creatures. 
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