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How to Save Camel in India? Read Complete Detailed Facts Inside

Chander Mohan
Chander Mohan

The camel is known as a ship of desert. This saying is true where the desert is available. We all are well aware that, camel is only available in Rajasthan in India. Though in the Arabian Countries, the camel is the mode of transport in the desert. It can live without water for more than week. If old stories are to be believed, then the identification of richness is from the number of camels a person owns.

The question is inevitable that in India How many camels are available? According to the animal census, around 3 lacs camels are available. There is need to save, protect to increase the number of available camels. Though the milk is nutritious and the shelf life is also more than any other milk.

In view of these the farming of camel was recommended. The camel is part of the landscape of Rajasthan; the icon of the desert state, part of its cultural identity, and an economically important animal for desert communities. But camel numbers are plummeting.

To save India’s dwindling camel population, the government of Rajasthan declared the camel an official State Animal in 2014, and in 2015 passed legislation, the Rajasthan Camel (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration) Bill, to protect it. But this did not provide solutions to the key issues behind the crisis.

A 1997 survey put the population of camels in Rajasthan at nearly 700,000. In 2003 there was a decline of about 23 percent (bringing down the number to 4,98,000) and another decline of 18 percent  in 2007 when the last camel census was undertaken.

So by 2012 it was not surprising that only 4,21,836 camels were said to be left in the state although the NRCC (National Research Centre on Camel) earlier stated that on the last count India had 5,17,000 camels. They also stated that only 8,800 of the Mewari breed – which is dwindling fast – are left and they are the ones that are good for milk production with an average of 7-8 litres per day, as compared to Jaisalmeri or Bikaneri breeds which produce on an average only 5-6 litres of milk per day.

In 2014, the Lokhit Pashu Palak Santhan (a NGO in Rajasthan that promotes camels and their produce) declared that the camel population had fallen from 4 lakh to 2 lakh in the state and it was imperative for the milk be legally sold.

 An all-India estimate of the 2014-15 camel population would therefore be no more than 3 lakh, that is 2 lakh in Rajasthan and 1 lakh in Gujarat with the latter fast declining.

The lifespan of a camel is 20 years. It starts breeding at about 4 years but conceives once in 2½ years. There is therefore no way in which their numbers can multiply fast.

The Gujarat Government, with dairy producer Amul, has been supporting the development of camel milk dairy since 2011, and has just started marketing it in selected locations in Gujarat. But although Rajasthan has many more camels, a surviving and superbly-adapted herding system, and high quality camel milk, the state is lagging behind in dairy investment; development of micro dairies and specialist products may be the only way forward if Rajasthan's camels are to survive.

Ushtra Vikas Yojana, the Camel Development Scheme, was announced by the State Government on 2 October 2016. 31.5 crore rupees has been allocated for the scheme over four years.

The new plan outlined by Kunji Lal Meena, Secretary, Animal Husbandry, Government of Rajasthan will support camel breeders with a subsidy of INR 10,000 (payable over a period of eighteen months) for each camel calf born, along with other measures which include training centres,  improved access to veterinary treatment and research on camel products.

The camel pastoralists of Rajasthan believe that Shiva created them to be the guardians of the camel. They are the custodians of a long and proud heritage which goes back at least 600 years.

Ushtra Vikas Yogana signals a new approach. To save Rajasthan’s state animal, we need to involve and work with camel keeping communities to combine the best of tradition with technological and institutional innovations.

Organizations including the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) agree that the camel is a key resource for future food security in arid zones. Camel numbers are increasing in other countries in response to climate change and increasing economic viability.

But Rajasthan’s heritage camel culture is disappearing fast. To maintain camel herds takes knowledge, expertise and a lot of hard work. The camels of Rajasthan cannot survive without their guardians.

80 percent of India’s camels are in Rajasthan. Unless camel breeders are able to survive, the decline in camel numbers can only continue. Since 1996, Lokhit Pashu Palak Sansthan (LPPS) has been working with the camel pastoralists of Rajasthan.

LPPS was formed at the request of the Raika camel breeders, who wanted better access to veterinary care for their camels. We initially concentrated on the two main camel diseases, trypanosomiasis and mange, as little treatment was available at the time.

The population of camels in India – at one time the third largest in the world – is on the decline. The Thar Desert of Rajasthan is their homeland. It provides them an adequate and ideal vegan diet along with climatic conditions that they require to thrive and remain healthy.

However, growing urban areas – industrialization together with pressure on agricultural land, has led to the loss of the camels’ natural grazing land. Illegal slaughter for meat is another reason why their population is dipping. The Raika or Raibari community, considered the guardians of the camel breeding herds or tolas, never sold female camels to anyone except from their community, but gradually the situation has changed and many are sold by them at Pushkar for meat.

The National Research Centre on Camel (NRCC) situated in Rajasthan on the outskirts of Bikaner at Jorbeer has improved the traditional camel cart by installing electric indicators to avoid accidents after dusk. The NRCC, initially under the aegis of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research was started with the mandate of developing infrastructure facilities for conservation and preservation of existing breeds of camel in arid and semi-arid regions and to generate scientific and technical information.

Sadly, the NRCC is now giving emphasis on transforming the "ship of the desert" into a milch animal and so a modern camel dairy has been set up at its campus.  Around 120 litres of milk is produced daily at NRCC, of which 50 percent is sent to Faridkot in Punjab for distribution among mentally challenged children. Earlier it was reported that every day the Rajasthan Milk Federation collected 1,000 litres of camel milk and sold it in tetra packs as far as Delhi.

 Also, different camel herds have been subjected to the unnatural embryo transfer technique and selective breeding for genetic improvement of indigenous breeds. The females have been made to super ovulate and with the aim of reproducing thrice, instead of twice, in two years. In April 2011 the NRCC announced that a white camel (not an albino) had been born and that they were carefully monitoring it and researchers would undertake genetic studies.

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