All Pics: Ajay Narsingh Rana
The majesty of Manang enchants and inspires thousands of visitors to the region every year, but there is a real danger, the growing number of dogs and cats threaten the delicate ecology of this trans-Himalayan valley.
In recent decades, the increasing, unmanaged population of cats and dogs in the Annapurna Conservation Area has frustrated locals and distressed the wildlife. Unwanted litter is released and is left to wander the forest where it can disturb and kill endangered wildlife. Villagers in Manang have reported problems with managing unwanted dogs for over two decades.
Apart from wildlife, dogs also attack livestock and other dogs. There is a danger to humans from rabid dogs, and they can spread diseases that can further affect wildlife and humans.
Some in Manang have attempted to control the canine population by culling them with poison, but this sets off a chain reaction of other problems. Poisoned dogs die a very slow death and their carcasses are scavenged on by wildlife such as vultures and other carnivores which themselves fall sick or die. The cats pose a different set of problems altogether, as they prefer to target smaller prey. Not every hunt is for food and the birds in the Himalayas are always vulnerable.
Things are set to change with the effort of the Himalayan Mutt Project which brings free neutering and anti-rabies vaccinations to communities for the first time. This unique project began the neutering and vaccination program for dogs and cats in Manang in 2014 with a follow-up in May this year.
This is a crowdfunded initiative that aims to control animal populations and to mitigate the risk of a rabies epidemic through Capture, Neuter, Vaccinate and Release (CNVR) programs which are recommended by the WHO for the humane control of stray dogs and rabies transmission to humans.
The Himalayan Mutt Project relies on the generosity of donors to continue its programs which will benefit the people of the Himalayas, and its fragile and threatened wildlife.
Taking the high road, Seulki Lee
In the shadow of Annapurna, Gopal Guragain