Tibetan mastiffs continue to suffer after Yushu quake

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Jiangyuan Prince, a Tibetan mastiff, walks slowly, growling, reluctant to look at the flour paste in his bowl. When a stranger approaches, he will bark angrily while wildly yanking on his chain.

"He is the best in appearance of all the existing Tibetan mastiffs I know of. Yet he wasn't well fed after the quake, and has got much slimmer," said Tselho, the breeder of the dog in Gyegu Town of Yushu Prefecture, gently touching the mastiff's hollow stomach.

As Yushu is struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people in April, Tibetan mastiffs, an expensive and old dog breed in China, are dying because of food and medicine shortages.

About 2,000 or one tenth of the total of Tibetan mastiffs in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture died in the 7.1-magnitude quake, according to the latest statistics from the Yushu Chapter of the Qinghai Provincial Tibetan Mastiff Association.

Chapter chief Tseom told Xinhua that the association would ration out dog food to breeders based on the number of dogs they had.

Since last Sunday, 21.7 tonnes of food had been donated via animal aid organizations from dog lovers.

But the dog food shortfall is likely to be as much as 200 tonnes over the next three months, said Tseom.

Known as the "Home of the Tibetan mastiff," Yushu Prefecture's mastiff-breeding industry was in good shape before the quake. Now, unattended mastiffs are seen wandering the streets.

Breeder Tselho felt sad he had no decent food to give Jiangyuan Prince, one of his favorite mastiffs.

Before the quake, Jiangyuan Prince was always given meat, yogurt plus a variety of processed dog food filled with nutrients. Now he only gets flour paste and dough.


Dog food shortages are not the only problem faced by mastiff breeders.

Medicine has become extremely important for injury treatment and disease prevention, Tseom said.

Most needed were those for diarrhea, and vaccines for rabies, he added.

Many breeders feared that the present food and medicine shortages could cause more mastiff deaths, and greater financial losses.

Breeder Tsering who lost 17 dogs in the quake, regrets he did not sell his best dog Jiangyuan King before the quake.

"Someone offered me 1.8 million yuan (about 265,000 U.S. dollars). Now he is dead, killed by the quake, along with 11 others after their shelter collapsed," said he.

"They could not escape. I had chained them up to stop them being stolen," said Tsering with a sigh.

Five puppies also died a few days after the quake of starvation and disease, Tsering added.

"Mastiff breeding is not as profitable as some believe. I used to have more than 30 mastiffs. The meat to feed them would cost me nearly 1,000 yuan a day. I'd lose money if the puppies did not sell for a good price," he said.H An average mastiff can normally sell for more than 100,000 yuan, but only the top ones go for more than a million.

Drarin Tashi, a 46-year-old mastiff breeder who had invested more than 200,000 yuan on 16 mastiffs, was also pessimistic.

"Five of them died in the quake, and the rest have only got slimmer and slimmer. No one wants to buy mastiffs anymore. I don't know what to do," he said.

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