The mountain, the man and the herd

"I have been shepherding on Pema Mountain for more than 20 years. In the past, every family in the village raised cattle and shepherded, but now, there are only four people in the whole village who do this," 56-year-old Kelrong, who has witnessed the changes to cattle and grazing pastures, said.

Yeri Village, where Kelrong lives, is a microcosm of the many surrounding villages in the area. They originally relied on shepherding for a living, but now, as lifestyles have changed, people have gradually left their herds and returned the pastureland to the snow-capped mountains.

"Yeri and nearby villages are located in the experimental area of the Pema Mountain National Nature Reserve. The experimental area allows for the retention of a certain amount of areas for scientific experiments, eco-tourism, and living of the original inhabitants."

Since the establishment of the Pema Mountain Nature Reserve, local herders have transitioned from burning wood in order to expand pastures to protecting trees and using pastureland in a reasonable way.

In May of this year, Kelrong drove his family's 22 cows to the "Pegye Yilha" pastureland in the Jinni River Valley, where he will spend five months living as a nomad until October, when he will drive the herd back home.

Kelrong's wife takes care of her 80-year-old mother and their six mu (0.4 hectares) of farmland, and the couple also has four children.

"Everything from the house to the children's education and getting married is dependent on the income from selling cattle."In the past, Kelrong's family's livelihood was heavily dependent on the cattle.

Now, in addition to the herd, Kelrong's family has other rich economic sources.

"In addition to wheat, corn, and highland barley, we also plant traditional herbal medicines, grapes, and walnuts in our family's farmland. Each year from July to October, we can go to the mountainside to dig for matsutake mushrooms. Add this to income from odd jobs here and there, and all of this earns more than raising cattle." Kelrong's family has an annual income of more than 40,000 yuan (5,981 US dollars), and they are better off these days.

"There are more trees now, and more animals. There are green mountains and rivers everywhere. No matter whether you come to graze cattle or not, Pema Mountain is our treasure." In Kelrong's heart, Pema Mountain is the No. 1.

He looks out towards the dignified and holy Pema Mountain, wrapped in white clouds, and offers his sincere thanks: "Under the protection of the mountain god, cattle and sheep are growing happily, and all forms of life can make their home here."