Sinking ship of the desert – the declining camel population


Did you know that the camels

  • at speeds of 25mph and can stretch to 40mph
  • can drink 30 gallons of water in just 13 minutes
  • can have new borns that can start walking in just 30 minutes
  • can live in extremely hot conditions but also in extremely difficult conditions

Did you also know that the camels in India are declining and are declining at a very fast pace? The statistics below speak for themselves.

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Why is the camel population on the decline?

  • The grazing lands have been greatly reduced
  • Increased mechanization in agriculture and transportation
  • Slaughter of the female camels

So what is the government up to?

Well the government has taken note of the declining population long back and they did formulate grand plans and visions which they usually do every 5 years. Take for e.g. the 2011 and 2014 Q&A discussing the issue of declining camel population

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Some of the highlights include

  • Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture had launched “National Livestock Policy-2013”. In connection with Breeding of Camel, under para 8.7 of the Policy, it is stated “It will aim at improving their desert specific draft power, milk production, disease resistance and sports traits.
  • Breeding of Double hump camel in high altitude areas would be supported with import of semen to minimize otherwise high chances of inbreeding
  • Approved the introduction of “The Rajasthan Camel (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration of Export) Bill, 2014”
  • Declared the camel as state animal of Rajasthan

So what then is the problem?

Well the government’s plan to revive the camel population doesn’t take the expertise and the knowledge of the traditional caretakers and breeders of the camels. They have been doing this for generations together as part of their family tradition and without taking their opinions into consideration any solution proposed behind closed doors will be that much harder to implement outside the four walls.

So how can the camel population be revived?

  • Camel breeding must be subsidized under the animal husbandry
  • Local breeders must be encouraged and be made a part of the solution
  • Camel milk must be promoted along with other by products of camel milk 
  • Camel wool, bones etc. can also be useful by products
  • Make camel an integral part of Rajasthan tourism
  • Male camels must be allowed to be exported, while female camels must be protected
  • The grants and funds provided by either foreign institutions or NGOs must be routed to farmers instead of research institutions or universities to really make an impact on ur ground
  • It has to be more of a community driven rather than govt. diktat

Special thanks to Bhanwar Lal Saran, farmer, District Barmer, Rajasthan for providing valuable inputs and insights into not only highlighting the issues but also providing solutions. Videos and picture credit – Bhanwar Lal Saran

The camels in action:

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References:

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