The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Identity tags for mithuns in Arunachal
- Microchips to identify ‘symbols of wealth’ and stop bad blood between owners

Itanagar, April 25: Believe it or not, 95 per cent of the quarrels — at times bloodbath — in rural Arunachal Pradesh is over the ownership of mithun (bos frontails) — the state animal considered to be a symbol of wealth.

One man’s effort to stop the bad blood has resulted in a unique project in the state — implanting microchips to identify the animals.

“The microchips bear a unique 15-digit code, which is like a bank account number. One number is allotted to one mithun and our records will tell who is the owner of that animal,” Chukhu Loma, the man behind the project and the deputy chief wildlife warden of the state, told The Telegraph today.

Loma hit upon the idea after attending a programme for microchipping of elephants at the Orang National Park in Assam in 2003.

The microchips, procured from firms in Pune and Germany, are injected on the left side of the mithuns, between the neck and the shoulder, Jikom Panor, a vet at the government-run Mithun Breeding Centre in Sagalee, said.

The centre’s coordinator, Taba Helly, said, “Altogether 48 mithuns have been injected with the microchips in the past few days and another 50 will be injected on Sunday, the concluding day of the programme which will be attended by chief minister Dorjee Khandu”.

The mithuns, which cost around Rs 40,000 each, are offered as “bride price” in the tribal-dominated state and are also sacrificed during festivals.

The animals are found in the state both in the wild and in a semi-domesticated form in households. It has a religious significance and is part of the socio-cultural life of the people. “Mithun is a symbol of wealth in the state and people will do anything to own one or two,” Loma said.

Owners keep track by branding the mithuns or marking them on the ears. But this method is not foolproof and more often than not leads to disputes, Panor said.

The microchip numbers, which will obliterate any confusion about the identity of an animal, can be read with the help of an electronic computerised reader available with the department, he added.

The rare species of livestock is reared by tribal population of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram and is also found in neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

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