The story of Khar and the Chadrabaal family

April 28 2017

With each disaster, we meet animals that stand out and whose stories seem to represent all of the animals suffering, hungry, homeless and scared.

By Scott Cantin, Global Head of Disaster Communications

In Mongolia, I met a very young, emaciated goat named Khar ("black") He was weak, terribly thin and had difficulty eating. When I first saw him, he was alone, standing away from the other animals. As I approached him, I saw he was standing beside the body of a dead goat. The little female was his sister and her name was Tugal. She'd died just before we arrived.

Khar belonged to the Chadrabaal family, nomadic livestock herders in the Ulaan-Uul soum (township) of Khovsgol Province. His owners care for 500 sheep and goats, 10 horses and 100 cattle which include cows, yaks and cow-yak hybrids or "khainag".

The Chadrabaal family are nomadic herders of about 600 animals – 500 sheep and goats, 10 horses and 100 cattle. The family relies on their animals to make a living. Livestock owners in Mongolia have been suffering from a dzud since 2016.

Lkhagvai Chadrabaal, told me they've lost 10 cattle and a few goats this year. He said their sheep and goats tend to survive better and are smaller so can be taken inside the gers (tents) on particularly harsh nights. Just down the road from their home, flocks of vultures and crows picked at the carcasses of a few animals who hadn't made it.

The morning we visited them we were up before sunrise and the cold was so intense it was difficult to catch our breath. And that was only in the time between the warmth of the ger and getting into the land rover. If those few seconds were that uncomfortable for me in winter clothing, I wondered how it must be for animals continuously exposed, night after night.

Seeing Khar so close to death himself was heartbreaking. Between keeping vigil for his sister, he circled aimlessly and other animals pushed him out of the way when it was time to feed. We knew we had to do something to help this family and their animals.

Lkhagvai's uncle Batsaa, the head of the family and a lifelong nomadic herder explained that they did not have enough food and that this winter was lasting too long. Animals were weakening and time was running out for some. 

We secured emergency food and fodder for the animals and the Chadrabaal's said with this help, their animals would survive until the grasses grew again. I asked Lkhagvai to watch out for Khar, to make sure he held back the other animals to allow him to eat and drink and slowly grow stronger. Visibly less stressed now that his animals' future was more secure, he smiled and said he would try his best.

We're going to stay in touch with the Chandrabaal's and I hope to update you on his recovery soon.

Related: Helping nearly 350,000 cold, starving Mongolian animals with emergency aid

"Seeing Khar so close to death himself was heartbreaking. Between keeping vigil for his sister, he circled aimlessly and other animals pushed him out of the way when it was time to feed. We knew we had to do something to help this family and their animals."
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