May 24, 2016 -- Tibetan culture is filled with folk tales about special relationships between humans and animals, and such a connection continues today in the form of a 62-year-old woman's "deer club" in the Tibet autonomous region's eastern Qamdo city.
Changchub Lhamo lives on a Riwoche county pasture called the Nadenthang that is home to Tibetan red deer, an endangered species in China. Also known as sha in the Tibetan language, red deer are native to the southern Tibetan highlands.
Every winter, the deer trod down the mountains for food, knowing they will find Changchub Lhamo and a meal. She has been sharing her love for the small herd over the past 40 years by feeding them turnips and salt.
"My family's condition was not good 40 years ago, but we had enough food, and I was pleased to share our food with the deer family," she said.
The bond forged between Changchub Lhamo and red deer dates back to the 1970s, when as a 16-year-old, that she adopted three fawns and treated them like her own children. She fed them yak milk and allowed them to sleep on her bed.
The deer grew up healthy, thanks to her care, and another 10 deer eventually join the herd. Lhamo's wildlife family became a "deer club".
The red deer habitat established by the government 40 years ago, the Riwoche Tramoling Tibetan Red Deer Reserve, has been expanded over the years to its current size of 64,000 hectares. There are more than 1,000 Tibetan red deer in the reserve.
Whenever the deer go downhill for food, Changchub Lhamo jumps into action. Her son also has joined the effort. Her compassion toward the protected wildlife has inspired many people on the grassland.
She said she intends to continue to feed the deer as she grows old, even though the subsidies she receives from the local ranger station are not nearly enough to pay for the food the deer herd consumes.
"If someone asks me what I have gained after helping for 40 years, I think the answer is a crowd of red deer," she said with a big smile.
By: Daqiong and Palden Nyima