Tibetan mastiff, a breed known for its loyalty and bravery, is struggling to survive on the plateau.
More than 600 stray Tibetan mastiffs are facing serious problems in a shelter in Nangqian county, Qinghai province, reported ynet.com on Thursday.
These dogs need at least 425 kg flour per day and the number is growing while the shelter, which is co-funded by civil society and local government, is struggling to make the ends meet to feed the dogs.
So many owners have abandoned these dogs that they are now roaming on the streets, attacking people, spreading diseases, and hunting livestock.
Last November, an eight-year-old girl was killed by a stray Tibetan mastiff in Nangqian county, reported ynet.com.
The blame for the current problems lie in the market hype created for Tibetan mastiff years ago.
People began breeding it on a massive scale as its economic value soared.
Zhou Yi, the secretary general of Qinghai Tibetan Mastiff Association, said it's not unusual to hear that people were paying tens of millions for the Tibetan mastiff.
"Even hybridization cost for a Tibetan mastiff ranged as high as 30,000 yuan (,800) to 200,000 yuan, even though hybridization didn't necessarily guarantee Tibetan mastiff, still many people were willing to gamble for the big profit," Zhou said.
Liu Mingyu, a doctoral candidate from Peking University, has studied the influence the stray dogs have had on the ecosystem in Tibet since 2015.
Liu said the price of Tibetan mastiff rose after each sale and so many people were involved and bought and resold for a high profit.
"But once the price went crazy, it's a matter of time before the market collapsed," said Liu.
Many breeders first began abandoning hybrid cubs and then Tibetan bred dogs when the Tibetan mastiff economy went south.
According to ynet.com, Nangqian county has 8,201 stray dogs. In Lhasa, capital of Tibet, the number reached 130,000 in 2015, reported ynet.com.
The huge number of stray dogs has badly affected the neighborhoods and the ecosystem.
Liu said stray dogs would slip into local people's yard and hunt livestock. If the dogs are in packs, they sometimes hunt wild animals such as bears, blue sheep and even snow leopards.
Yin Hang, an ecosystem activist from Gangri Neichog Research and Conservation Center, said there's a video where stray dogs are seen attacking black-necked cranes and eating their eggs in a natural conservation area.
According to local custom, dogs are viewed as treasure so people refuse to euthanize them. The stray dogs gather and mate and breed more dogs.
The shelter was established to keep stray dogs away from people and feed the animals until their last breath, said a staff member. "But I don't know how long this place will last as it cost so much to keep it running. We'll have to let dogs out if we're out of financial support."