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Sheep farmers test safe route to pastures

Updated: 2013-11-18 01:19
By Cui Jia in Beijing and Gao Bo in Ily, Xinjiang ( China Daily)

Sheep farmers test safe route to pastures

Herdsmen and their sheep use a new passage to reach their winter pastures in Ily Kazak, the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, on Sunday. The passage keeps herdsmen off the adjacent expressway, making travel safer for them and motorists.[Li Gancheng / for China Daily]

New passage in Xinjiang will save livestock from traffic accidents

Sheep farmers in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region have successfully tested a new passage designed for the safe transfer of sheep between winter and summer pastures.

By Sunday morning, two days after the new route opened, more than 57,000 sheep had made the journey.

The 33-kilometer passage runs parallel to the expressway that links the Guozigou Valley and Lake Sayram in Ily Kazak. It links the traditional summer and winter pastures of Kazak ethnic herdsmen, who have lived a nomadic lifestyle for generations.

Kurharsbie Yerkbek, director of Huocheng county's husbandry and veterinarian bureau, said the passage makes travel safer both for the herdsmen and motorists.

"After the expressway was built in 2011, the herdsmen had to move their sheep and horses on the expressway because it was built on the traditional route for transferring livestock. It was dangerous for the herdsmen and the animals, but there was no other choice," he said.

In just the past two years, two Huocheng herdsmen and about 1,000 sheep had been killed by vehicles, he said.

"One sheep's accidental death can cost a herdsman at least 1,000 yuan ($164)," Kurharsbie said. "If the dead sheep is pregnant, the loss is even greater. Also, to the herdsmen, livestock are more than possessions."

Li Shengbao, director of the Guozigou Valley traffic police, said that previously, traffic police would block one expressway lane during the day and tell vehicles to slow down to allow the sheep, horses and camels to get through, but accidents still happened.

"Accidents involving livestock and herdsmen cause major traffic jams, delaying the vehicles and herdsmen alike," he added. "It's hard to reach compensation agreements because the value of livestock varies."

Kurharsbie said that more than 145,000 livestock from Huocheng are expected to move to their winter pastures this year, and the traffic on the lane could be heavy. If the weather is good, 80 to 100 flocks of up to 250 sheep each could pass daily.

Li and Kurharsbie both said they hope the passage, which had been under construction since May, will prevent further deaths.

Muhtar Ablimajit, 38, began this year's winter transfer on Friday, starting from his summer pasture on horseback at 5 am. Reaching the lane with 440 sheep by 9:30 am, he was one of the first herdsmen to use the passage designed for them.

Muhtar and his sheep got through the lane in about nine hours.

"I came to check the lane while it was under construction, and I found some parts were very narrow, only about 3 meters wide," he said.

"I was afraid sheep would step onto the expressway. Now it doesn't seem to be a problem, and I feel less nervous because the flocks are separated from the trucks."

He arrived at his winter pasture, about 200 km away from the summer one, on Saturday night.

Some herdsmen, however, have to travel for a week to arrive at their winter pastures.

The lane was built next to the expressway so that rescue teams could arrive quickly in the event of an accident, said Wayit Ritif, an engineer on the construction team with Xinjiang's communications management bureau.

Nearly 30,000 square meters of barbed wire was laid on the surface of the mountains alongside the lane to block falling stones and deter sheep from straying, he said.

Li said traffic police will assist herdsmen to prevent their flocks from breaking up at the narrow parts of the lane and ensure no livestock stray onto the expressway.

"Managing sheep on the roads is as important as our normal duties, and it's not an easy task," he said.

Contact the writers at cuijia@chinadaily.com.cn and gaobo@chinadaily.com.cn

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