The DRDO's Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) laboratory in Leh has developed a technology to produce ponies that can carry more weight for the Indian Army and efforts are underway to breed more such hybrid Zanskar ponies.
"We have been working for pack animals mostly the local ponies in the Zanskar Valley in Leh. The ponies are generally used by the Army for logistics.The local ponies could carry a load of only 15-20 kg, however the mules used by Army were severely affected by the high altitude maladies. The Army was looking for sturdy and well adapted animal, with a high load bearing capacity," Dr RB Srivastava director of DIHR told HT.
With this in mind, he said: "We introduced a male pony from Austria, (Halflinger Stallion) and cross bred it with a female local pony. The cross breeding lasted for several years and finally we did the final trial of the hybrid breed in Kargil. We found them to be highly disciplined, more acclimatized with the harsh climate and more importantly they could carry a load of 50-60 kg."
After the successful trial at Kargil DIHAR has transferred the germplasm to the Army that is used for breeding and after the technology has been matured the Army has opened an establishment in the region for carrying out breeding and training of these ponies for logistic operations.
"They are called Zanskar crossbred ponies and our target is to have many more such ponies for carrying the logistic load of the Army in operational areas". Besides the breeding of ponies, he said we have also worked on vegetables.
"With our technology we have shown the potential for growing 101 vegetables in a single seasonwhich will benefit the soldiers."