Inimitable Features of Camel! Solution for Complicated Challenges of Future~ At the juncture of the World Camel Day 2014
World Camel Day (WCD) is observed every year at the juncture of the longest and hottest day (North Hemisphere of the globe! as this part is the cradle of domestication for the old world camelids i.e. Bactrian and the dromedary) of the year. The suggestion of the WCD was initiated by the author and soon supported by many camel stakeholders and known international organizations.
This year, I was supposed to participate in the EC meeting of the ISO CARD in Almaty Kazakhstan (21-22 June 2014) to discuss the planning and programs for the International camel conference under the patronage of ISO CARD. Besides my keen interest and measures, I could not manage to participate because of some logistic issues.
Thanks to Dr. Younas (chairman of the Livestock Management Department and president of the Camel Association of Pakistan) for his kind invitation to participate in the ceremony of WCD in the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF). This invitation helped me in releasing my apprehension as I was unable to attend the EC meeting.
I traveled from my home town Loralai, traditionally known as Borai, via Multan. I stayed one night in Multan Fruit Market with my brother Rafiq. It was mango season as well as Multan is a home tract of the delicious mangoes. Brother and his colleague offered me the incredibly delicious and juicy mangoes; Malta Sarohi, Dosehri, Desi, etc. There are so many varieties and I really forgot the names of those varieties.
The next day (20th June) I reached UAF, the weather was very hot; reminded me of the importance of the camel. It was really camel weather, harsh and hostile. In the evening, the hot weather changed into the wind and later on in rain. The weather became so pleasant and heart-touching in a while.
I met Dr. Ilse Koehler Rollefson (she came from India via the Wahga border) and discussed the issues related to camel and pastoralism. Dr. Ilse is a well-known German scientist/activist who works for the well-being of camel communities in India. She was invited by Dr. Younas to participate in the festivity of WCD and give her speech on ‘Trend and Potential of Camel in South Asia’. In the evening the camel danced with the drums, students, and academia participated in the annual function of the Faculty of Animal Husbandry (FAH).
WORLD CAMEL DAY 22nd June
The formal WCD 22nd June, due to some reasons the day has celebrated a date earlier. Today (21st June), a great ceremony was opened in the New Senate Hall of the UAF. A huge number of media people, students, activists, academia, and researchers participated in the ceremony. The camel milk brand ‘Dachi Camel Milk’ was launched by the Department of Livestock Management of the UAF. Mr. Rizvi (media person from NHK channel of Japan) specially traveled from Islamabad to cover this special event. Dr. Abdul Raziq (author), Dr. Ilse Kohler Rollefson, Dr. Younas, and others delivered key speeches on different aspects of the camel and its related issues.
Brief of the speeches
Dr. Abdul Raziq highlighted the importance of camels in the socio-cultural and socio-economic context of the camel habitats. Camels enable the life and livelihood of pastoralists in harsh and hostile ecosystems and produce unique foodstuffs in conditions where other domestic livestock species are rather hard to survive. Camel produces eco-friendly and its water footprint is quite appealing. This is the camel century and camel can really beat the challenges of climate change. Camel is a unique model for sustainable and low-input livestock production systems. Unfortunately, its role is never praised and appreciated at policy levels. Camel data is very scarce and unreliable sometimes. Due to calamities of climate change and other unknown reasons; the camel is facing emerging fatal diseases like respiratory syndrome, etc. Due to negligence, such havoc is never addressed properly; resulting in heavy losses. The WCD was therefore proposed and initiated to aware all stakeholders of the importance of camels on one hand and find ways to cope with the emerging challenges of the camels’ world.
Dr. Ilse said that her visit to Pakistan proved extremely instructive as camel numbers are on the increase (1 million head; Economic Survey of Pakistan 2013-14). This trend is in stark contrast to the situation in neighboring India where camel numbers have dropped to around 200,000, according to in-official sources. She elaborated on the details of the activities of LPP (League for Pastoral People; a German-based NGO) regarding camel development in Rajasthan. She stressed finding ways for harvesting untapped resources of camels to enhance the income of camel herders. The production of Bio-paper from the camel dung, camel ice cream, Camel Yathra, and knitting rugs from camel fiber in Rajasthan are the outcomes of the unique ideas of Dr. Ilse. She also expressed her concerns about the negligence of the policymakers, emerging diseases, and the lack of interest of the veterinarians regarding camels. She also gifted Bio-paper diaries to the worthy Vice-Chancellor (Dr. Iqrar A Khan) and to the president of the CAP (Dr. Muhammad Younas).
Dr. Younas elaborated on the role and importance of the CAP. He detailed the aims and objectives of the CAP and its role in camel development. He announced the next CAP meeting cum seminar at Lasbela University (LUAWMS) in February 2015. He told that the election of the CAP will also be accomplished in that seminar. Dr. Younas also told about the research interest of students in camel aspects.
Dr. Iqrar A Khan (VC of UAF) highlighted the importance of the camel in dry and deserted lands of the world. He said that it is really a camel century and he was very optimistic about the role of the camel as a food security animal in the days to come. He also expressed his concerns regarding the camel statistics and data on camels in the country. He told about his contact with camel culture in Sultanate Oman. He expressed his concerns regarding the weak interest of veterinarians in camel health. He told that while asking the Veterinarians regarding their animals of interest; they always mentioned dogs and cats as their favorite animals.
The speech by the camel hobbyist (Shah sab from Bhakkar) really fascinated the viewers. He told about the polite nature of the camel and its intelligence in learning the commands of the instructor. Sha sab was kind enough as he brought 3 dancing camels with the music band to celebrate WCD in UAF.
The director of Camel breeding farm Rakh Mani at Bhakkar told about the on-farm activities of camels. He presented his heartiest offer to researchers and academia to research and study different aspects of camels in semi-intensive farming situations.
After the first session in New Senate Hall, all the participants, media people, students, and other stakeholders enjoyed the camel dancing with the drums. Different media groups shot pictures, videos, and interviews for their channels.
The second session was conducted in another Hall. Dr. Younas and Dr. Zafar Iqbal Qureshi presented on camel milk and reproduction respectively. Dr. Qureshi highlighted the interesting and unique reproductive aspects of the camel. He told about his experience in camel reproduction during his job in UAE.
After the second session Lunch with camel Biryani (camel meat cooked in rice) was offered to all participants. It was so delicious, aromatic, and tender meat. The experts expressed that camel meat export can be a good source of income for the camel herders of Pakistan.
Meeting of the CAP
After the dinner, the CAP meeting was incepted. Different issues were discussed in the meeting. The main issues discussed were; the registration of the members, the budget of the CAP, registration of the organization at the country level, and making different working groups. Tapping the role of social media in promoting CAP and its cause was also discussed and it was decided that a Facebook page for CAP will be launched soon (the page is launched with the link as; https://www.facebook.com/saves.org.pk
Success stories of SAVES and CAP
- Biocultural Community Protocol (BCP) of Rohi Pastoralists of Cholistan strengthened and aware Rohi Community resulting in the inclined prices of their camel. Their camels received higher prices (10 times more) than ever. Biocultural Community Protocol is etiquette to document the bio-assets of a community in their own perception.
- Dachi Camel Milk was launched by the Department of Livestock Management of the UAF which can be a good tool to materialize camel milk available in urban areas.
- Camel Biryani, an idea that can enhance the demand for camel meat; can boost investment in camel enterprise.
The author is president of the Society of Animal, Veterinary and Environmental Scientists (SAVES), EC member of ISO CARD, and General Secretary of the Camel Association of Pakistan.