Unusually high levels of snowfall in the Indian Himalayas have killed almost 25,000 pashmina goats. This significant drop in population could be a genuine concern to world luxury retailers, as their cashmere wool is a key material for making silky scarves and other high end goods.
The animals are reared by the nomads who populate the arid, treacherous terrain of India’s north western region of Ladakh. Annually, 50 tonnes of raw pashimina wool, said to be some of the finest in the world, is produced in the region. It is then sent to neighbouring Kashmir for processing and weaving into scarves and shawls, which can fetch upwards of five hundred pounds.
According to Rigzin Spalbar, head of the Ladakh Hill Development Council, high levels of snowfall have buried the goats sources of food, resulting in mass starvation. He stated that, “All the land access routes are blocked with snow and a week earlier we requested the government to airdrop fodder and supplements for the surviving goats…It took me seven days on foot to reach a fringe of the area and I saw dead pashmina goats lying all around.”
The only way of reaching the snowbound nomad herders dotted around this mountainous region is through satellite phone, making direct offers of assistance difficult.
After one of the heaviest falls in nearly half a century, three feet of snow is still covering the fodder of the goats, and 175,000 of the animals are still at risk of starvation. The only way of reaching the snowbound nomad herders dotted around this mountainous region is through satellite phone, making direct offers of assistance difficult.
There are plans underway to organize for army delivery of compact feed, however due to treacherous conditions, it may take some time before aid gets through. The crisis comes at a particularly worrying time for pashimina wool dealers, who have in recent years found themselves undercut by counterfeit dealers from China and Mongolia.