The Wildlife of The World’s Deserts – Part 1 – Asia — naturetails

Last week my post was about the desert Antarctica. This week I am following with the deserts of Asia. Posts about all of the world’s deserts will follow in the next few weeks. For thousands of years, deserts had power over our imagination as a vast and barren terrain, leading into the unknown and unseen […]

The Wildlife of The World’s Deserts – Part 1 – Asia — naturetails

The Wildlife of the World’s Deserts – Part 11 – The Desierto de Tabernas – Europe — naturetails

Desierto de Tabernas The closest Europe has to a true desert is located in south-east Spain, some 20 kilometres north of the city of Almeria. It is a shallow depression between the Sierra de Los Filabres to the north and the Sierra Alhamilla to the south. This was the area’s fossilised coral reefs that during […]

The Wildlife of the World’s Deserts – Part 11 – The Desierto de Tabernas – Europe — naturetails

Is Converting Desert into Cropland a Wise Decision?

My take on this issue is not for criticism but for the development of understanding about the deserts and starting a debate to have the technical opinion on this important topic.

Recently watched a video, Chinese colleagues are converting desert into cropland. Developing deserted lands is a very good idea but converting into croplands is rather a bad idea. I personally do not like this idea because of some reasons, given in the ensuing lines.

  1. Deserts are not zero valued or waste land. The ancestors of many staple foods’ seed and livestock species are inhibited in the desert.
  2. The deserts are historically and traditionally grazing lands. The precious and highly adapted and multipurpose native livestock evolved into the present day breeds in the desert. Such livestock is the answer to the difficult and complex challenges of the climate change.
  3. Deserts not only inhibits the precious plants and animal genetic resources but provides fascinating beauty to the landscape.
  4. Deserts have their own identity on the surface of the earth. It provides unique environments to many seasonal and migratory animals in different time periods of the year.
  5. Deserts play role in the weathering and energy flow of the planet (though not many references).
  6. A corporate and massive agric farming will destroy the overall health of the desert and the precious floral genetic resources can be vanished as well as the animal genetic resources.
Desert is very beautiful with its sand dunes and unique camels.

Then what can be done the best with the desert?

  1. The top suggestion can be the re-vegetation of the wild species of flora which are already adapted to the specific climatic conditions of the relevant desert/s.
  2. Fixation of the dunes, minimizing the intensity of desert storms, and covering certain/specific areas with the organic layer cover can be revolution.
  3. The innovation and science loving countries can use smart and sustainable methodologies to provide organic cover to certain areas of the desert. Like in UAE, the camel manure can be use to make organic covering bricks to cover the sand. https://camel4all.blog/2016/02/02/camels-dungzfrom-waste-to-a-worthwhile-farming-agent/amp/
  4. The organic pads can be used as a ball for seeds. The seeds will grow very well in the organic pads and will sustain its growth and development in the coming years. Enveloping seeds (native to desert) into the organic pads like the farmers practice in floating agric in Bangladesh. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5MKlSoubOY will bring a revolution in the desert.
  5. Plantation of native trees and bushes like Prosopis, acacia, and haloxyllon, etc. can provide very good woody cover to the desert and minimize the intensities of the storms.
  6. Such vegetation in return can support feeding to the native livestock and wildlife.
Richgreen Desert after the Rain
The flora is the most important genetic resource in the whole planet earth but the deserts even need more floral diversity to give life and beauty to the desert.

Important Note

My take on this issue is not for criticism but for the development of understanding about the deserts and starting a debate to have the technical opinion on this important topic.

The desert vegetation including trees are playing multipurpose roles, from food to protection.

Sandy or Deserted, Richland vs Poorland

The land cover with the sands is sandy, commonly known as desert. But all the sandy soil are not deserted soil. To me, deserted mean the land abused by the factory farming or monocultural farming, full of the residues of the pesticides, weedicides and chemicals.

The monoculture farming is hazardous to the flora and fauna and kill the mother earth natural health.

The sandy soils are commonly known as deserts because of the poor/low annual precipitation. When there is enough precipitation, such sandy lands turn into lush green meadows. Such lands are the reservoirs of the plants and animal genetic resources. The plants of the deserts are very beautiful with attractive flowers. https://camel4all.blog/2019/12/09/beautiful-flowers-and-fruits-of-wild-flora-of-united-arab-emirates/

In thins blog, I have to share some very beautiful pictures which I took yesterday in the evening time. We received some few rains last 3 weeks and now the desert is very beautiful and full of beautiful shrubs and flowers.

The sandy deserts are blessed with very special plants which conserve moisture in their cushions, hairy to divert evaporation moisture and hardy to resist strong sunshine.

We just need to place some inputs like reseeding of native plants, protection from grazing for a certain period and some landscape adjustment, we can turn the sandy desert into a shrubland.

The Floral Diversity of the Desert

Deserts are the rich lands on the earth treasured with the well-adapted unique floral and faunal diversity.

The strongest, resilient, and very beautiful Ghaf (Prosopis) tree deep in the desert. See how strong she stands and faces the desert storms.
See the strength of the Ghaf tree, the national tree of the United Arab Emirates.

Desert Provides Comfort and Habitat to Many Beautiful Flora and Fauna

Desert is not a hell of sand but a beautiful paradise for a wide and diverse floral and faunal biodiversity. Here, I share some pictures of the desert. I took these pictures in the different time period during my desert exploration walk.

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You can see different views of the desert in the pictures in the above slideshow.

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Here you can see different plants of the desert, some with the fruits. You can see the steps of the Gazal in one picture. I think Ghazal eats Calitropis (Akk) leaves, please correct me if someone really knows. 

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Here in the above slideshow, you can see different beautiful plants. These plants are highly palatable and the camel-like it very much.

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Different flowers with shining beauty in the sand. They provide a fascinating view of the desert. Such flowers are attraction and source of nectar to very tine creatures (see in the next slideshow).

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Beautiful small insects can be seen in the flowers and on the seed as well.

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The specialized roots of the desert flora. See the Prosopis tree is resisting to the desert conditions with the support of its strong roots.

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Strong, multi and scattered roots. Some roots have the sponge like fiber coated on the roots to absorb and retain moisture.

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The Desert explorer, this big rough and tough stick really helped me.

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And when the mother earth calls back the creatures.

Conclusion

Please love mother earth. Think positively. See the beauty and use your beautiful chamber of the brain. Do not throw rubbish in the desert, the tinny creatures suffer.

A Symbol of Resilience and Patience~The Acacia Tree of the Arabian Desert

Acacia tortilis tree is an incredible desert creature. It survives in harsh and hostile ecosystems and resist the normal weathering conditions but evolves its resistance to the changing climates. The Ice Cream Species of Plants for the Camel and Goat. Part 1

 

Acacia Tortilis
I took this picture in the city of the Alain during my morning walk on the weekend.

I always tried to learn the lessons of strength, patience, and resilience of the plants and animals. See the beautiful and special tree, the Acacia of the desert ecosystem. The botanical name is Acacia tortilis and the local names are Samr, Samur, and Salam.

Acacia tortilis (Samur)
The blossom of Acacia Tortilis

I’m talking about the Acacia Tortilis (Samr, Samur or Salam), a compound leaf, the thorny and hardy tree of the Arabian desert. Highly resistant tree of drylands and the desert. The camel and goats both like it. Such strong and resilient plants products give camels strong feelings of survival. TERRESTRIAL HABITATS

Acacia Tortilis
The beautiful pods of the resilient tree can be seen guarded by sharp spines

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The close view of the compound leaf of the Acacia tortilis
A Close View of the Compound Leaves

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A Hard and Resilient Creature

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The Tree has its own artistic structure, a heart touching beauty. I took this picture in the Alain city

Plastic and other Rubbish Thrown in the Acacia tree
We must care and respect the nature. The plastics and other rubbish is thrown in this precious creature. It is hazardous and dangerous for the tree health and the environment at large

The Nature Engineered Distinctive DNA of Camel to Beat the Challenge of Climate Change

Thank God, my dream came true as; specially engineered camel DNA (revealed in a recent study) makes this unique animal a solution to climate change and other challenges. The study ( the author was part of it) published in PNAS with full access here. a day before. The authors have ensured that the remarkable story over its long and celebrated history stands out like a scientific beacon. Without the camel, Arabian trade, medieval conquests, and recent communication routes would all have collapsed, changing the course of events for human civilizations as well as that incredible diversity among the camel gene pools of Asia, Africa, and even Australia.

Kohi Camel Caravan.jpg

A unique and pioneering study of the ancient and modern DNA of the ‘ship of the desert’ the single-humped camel or dromedary has shed new light on how its use by human societies has shaped its genetic diversity. DNA Sequencing Reveals Human Desert Migrations Shaped Camel Genetics.

Dromedaries have been fundamental to the development of human societies, providing food and transport in desert countries, for over 3,000 years. The dromedary continues to be vital for livelihood, food, and recreations where other species would not survive. In the current context of climate change and advancing desert landscapes, the animal’s importance is increasing and there is new interest in the biology and reproduction of the species.

In my opinion “genetic mixing and re-mixing engineered special DNA (camels) as; by constantly mixing the populations, the camels are now very genetically diverse which makes them more resilient to climate change. As predicted by the climate scientists, the mercury will go up with the passage of years, the camels will be the best choice among the others for food security and sustainable farming systems.

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The study suggests that the wild camels, which are now extinct, periodically helped restock domesticated populations. Unlike many other domesticated animals, modern camel populations have maintained their ancestral genetic diversity, potentially enabling adaptation to future changes in terrain and climate, according to the authors.

For more general articles the links are given in the ensuing lines. The links are referred in the article also.

References;

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-36252141

http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2016/05/human-migrations-shaped-camel-dna

http://www.sciencecodex.com/origin_of_dromedary_domestication_discovered-182056

How trade routes forever changed the dromedary camel’s genetic makeup

http://nhv.us/content/16056061-first-domestication-dromedaries-took-place-southeast-arabian

http://www.earthtimes.org/conservation/diversity-camels-conserved-3000-years/2938/

http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/june-2013/article/ancient-trading-networks-and-arabian-camel-diversity

Strange Animal with Special Traits ~ My Camel

Camel is integral part of the deserted ecosystems and blessed with special traits/characteristics which give strange potential to this unique animal. In Quran camel is called as strange animal. Here are some strange potential of camels in the ensuing lines.

Protected from Sand

The wide, flat, sponge like cushioned and hoof-less feet can walk across the sand without sinking in.
The long double layered eyelashes protect its eyes from blowing sand and dust. The tear glands continually rinse the eye surface and a thin translucent inner eyelid can be closed to protect their eyes while allowing them to see even in the sand storm.
They can close off their nostrils completely in addition to the thick hairs in the nostrils that help filter the air. Their small ears are also covered with hair inside and out to filter blowing sand and dust.

camel for blog

Desert Ecosystem is Hot and Camel is Heat Protected

The narrow body presents a small surface area for the sun to hit when directly exposed. Camel also incline to turn into the sun when they sit so as to present the smallest possible surface area to the sun. Also camels need little feed and usually avoid eating during the hottest times so as not to generate heat, instead they rest. Camels will sit together in groups in the hotter time of the day when their body’s temperature is lower than that of the air, thus insulating them from the heat. Heavy coarse hair insulates the camel’s back from the heat of the sun. Thin skin on the belly with blood vessels close to the surface help cool the animal.
The strange body feature of camel enable to cope with extreme changes in body temperature. Camels are an average of 2 meters tall at the shoulder and their long legs keep the body away from the heat of the sand. Fifth pad (Chest Pad) and Knees Pad (leathery callus-like pads) grow on the chest and knees of the camel empower him to sit on hot desert sand without direct connection of the skin. The urine splatters the rear legs when it falls also cooling the creature.

Camel Withstands Dehydration

Camels store water for days or weeks and their system is so efficient that the dung is almost completely dry and the urine a thick concentrate. In the cool season a camel can go for two months without drinking; in the hot season they need to drink every week. The thick hair also prevents evaporation of sweat. They can survive dehydration of up to 25 to 30 % of their body’s weight (most mammals will die at 12-15% loss) When thirsty a camel can consume 100 liters (~25 gallons) in 10 minutes.

The fatty tissue of their hump is also a great energy reserve which permits them to do the long arduous treks across desert areas and the bye-product of fat utilization in energy is water. Fats are more water than water.

Dairy Camel ~ Transforming from Desert Ecosystem to Modern Farming

The old world camels (Dromedary and Bactrian) are well adapted to the harsh (both cold extreme and hot extreme) and hostile (deserts with scarce water and feed availability) ecosystems of the northern hemisphere of the globe. The centuries-long evolution and adaptation (selection for traits of choice by pastoralists) process made it unique and highly resilient animal to the calamities of its ecosystems. The pastoralists (traditional Institutions) managed and validated precious indigenous knowledge of camel husbandry, behavior, welfare, products development & management, breeding & neonatal care, health and recreation in the course of history while facing many challenges. The camel was mainly used in that period (pre-historic to the automobile) as a beast of burden (wars, pastoral transportation, desert accessibility etc), while milk, meat, and other products were used as by-products (additional asset).

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The onset of automobile industry replaced (the intensity increased with the modernization and abundance of the automobile) the role of the camel as the beast of burden. This evolution resulted from camel to turn to its original task ~ The Milk. The thin/ smart and light camel types (mostly from desert) desert were selected for racing and riding. Camel racing – (a multi-million dollar industry in the Middle East) evolved and a set of racing norms along with rules and regulations came into being. Today UAE is home to this joyful sport and camel with racing traits are attracting million of AED annually.

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The heavy camel with clear body confirmation, well-confirmed udder, milk vein etc is selected for milk production and use as dairy animals. Again a modern dairy industry is co-evolving towards a modern camel dairy in the Middle East. As camels have roots in Arab culture, both types of camel activities (racing and dairying) are developed and established in this region with the dry ecosystem.  I really do not know about the challenges being faced by the racing industry, the hurdles in the dairy industry are much obvious and easy to establish. Selection for dairy traits (its heritability) is still a dream in the emerging industry. The breeding goals for this purpose are not yet established and practice.

This shift from the old to modern camel agriculture resulted in many challenges. One of the main constraints of the modern (confined dairying) is the intensive environment (housing, feeding, milking and breeding etc) which bring many hurdles like fatigue/weakness, craving/weakness, mastitis and welfare, infertility etc. Selection for body/udder confirmation is hardly practiced while selecting/buying a camel for a dairy purpose which leads to difficulties in milking and handling in the modern milking parlor.5636501.jpg

Camel feeding is another constraint, especially in confinement. The Scientific approach is seldom practiced in this regard. In most of the cases Alfalfa or another type of hays along with some TMR and mineral mixture. I think the camel needs more (some unidentified fectors~as camel have special physiology) as camel had evolved with the unique feed requirements. Author documented more than 50 plant species as like/feed by camel in free-roaming feeding system of Suleiman Mountainous Region of Pakistan. Narrowing the diversity of feed items may cause/enhance the issues like fatigue, mastitis, and fever etc. Camel nutrition (dairy) is the utmost need issue and need further scientific research and practice.

The combination of narrowing diversity of feed items, confinement and stress (parlor along with the intensity of treatment) invite complex ailment situation which affects both the animal itself and probably the products consumers. Such challenges need to be addressed technically and scientifically with the course of time. A strange and painful factor (hiding experience) has been noticed among the camel dairy technical practitioners as they avoid to share knowledge. Some technical personnel and scientists do not want to share their experience and knowledge to keep their position strong and important.  Institutional support is lacking and research institutes prioritize cow dairy and other fields (with more research articles and subject material). University level subjects related to the camel and its modern role must be incorporated for the students of the region. Institutional support in all aspect of modern camel farming is the pivotal part of camel development. The author has suggested a scientific session on modern camel dairying and its challenges in the next ISOCARD conference (2015 Kazakhstan).

Kharani Camel Breed of Chaghai-Kharan Desert

Kharani camel

Kharani camel is found in the desert ecosystem of the Chaghai Kharan desert ecological zone. Kharani camel is one of the important camel breed, well adapted to desert ecosystem and play a pivotal role in the socio-economic and socio-cultural life of the pastoral people of that region. The breed has very deep roots in the culture of the Baloch tribes.

Production systems and socioeconomic importance

The majority of the herds of camel are owned by nomadic and semi-nomadic herders. In winter time the nomadic and semi-nomadic owners migrate towards the east, up to Bolan area of the province. After the rainy season of moon soon in July and August, abundant vegetation is available there. The small farmers are mostly sedentary owners provide supplementation in the winter season because of the low or even no vegetation availability in the region.

Kharani camel is one of the best milk producers in the world and produces up to 40 liters of milk per day. The milk is widely used in the region and therefore having high consumer preference. The milk is being used fresh, soured (Sorain) and added in tea. Sorain is highly preferred and can be stored for up to one week without refrigeration. The same methodology is used in the countries of Central Asia and the product is known as camel Vodka locally.

Population size and trend

The population size estimated ranges from 9000 to 13000 and there is a speedy decline in the population. There are many factors responsible for this sad state of the situation, i.e. illegal export to Iran both male and female animals, a threat to the ecosystem of Kharani breed because of the deforestation and some herders now practice cross-breeding to produce Rodbari camel which is a good race animal in the desert. Such crossbred animal is highly liked by the smugglers which are being used for drug trafficking in the triangle of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran.

Breeding goal of the breed

The main breeding goal of the Kharani camel breeders is to produce camel with high milk yield. The second major breeding goal is to produce camel well adapted to the desert ecosystem. The male camel is selected for breeding with the characteristics of higher milk, adaptation in the desert ecosystem, boor or fawn color. Curly wool and hanging muzzle. The camel is medium in size with long black eyelashes. Long legs, neck, and oval foot pads are the salient feature of the breed. There are two special traits of the breed, i.e. milk production ability, drought resistant and hardy against the high ambient temperature of the deserted ecosystem.

Table Biometric parameters of Kharani breed (cm)

Body measurements Male Female Mean
Head length 40 39 39.50
Head width 20 19.50 19.25
Weather height 175 175.5 19.75
Thoracic girth 197 202 175.25
Abdominal girth 231 250.7 199.5
Tail length 60 54.7 240.85
Ear length 11 11 57.35
Ear width 6.5 6.7 11
Neck length 90 96.2 6.6
Rump length 143.5 146.9 93.1
Estimated weight 398 444 145.2

Table Reproductive and productive traits of the Kharani Camel

No Traits Values
Male Female
1 Average birth Weight 30-40 kg 31 – 35 kg
2 Average weaning Weight* 165-180 kg. 155 – 180 kg
5 Ready for workload 3 yr 3 yr
7 Use for heavy duty 7-8 yr
8 Age of puberty 4 yr 2.5-3 yr
9 Average work-life 25 yr
10 Average reproductive life 25 ye 21 yr
11 Conception rate out of herd 50-53%
12 Gestation  period 375-386 day
13 Calving rate out of herd 45-50%
14 Calving interval 2 yr
15 Average milk production 17 kg/day
16 Lactation length 10-12 month
17 Wool Production 2 kg

Special traits of the breed

v  High milk yield in the hostile desert conditions

v  Resistant to trypanosomiasis.

v  Highly drought tolerant

 Phenotypic characteristics

Except for some non-descript camel majority of the camel, a population is composed of the Kharani breed. The name of this breed is derived from the famous Kharan desert. This breed is also called as Boor locally because of its color (Fawn) as presented in the figure. There are many color patterns in the Kharani camel. The pastoral people know the importance of the color of a breed and correlate it with the specific trait. The colors are fawn, red brown, white and yellow. Phenotypic characteristics are given in a table.

Reproductive and productive performance

The male is ready for breeding at the 4 years of age and female reaches to the time of mating at the age of 2.5-3 years. While the service period remains for 6 days and estrus cycle ranging from one week to 4 weeks. Calving interval is normally two years and average reproductive life of a female is about 20 years. A weight of the calf at the birth is almost 30-40 kg, depending upon the sex, nutritional and health status of the dam. Weaning weight at (12 months) is about 165-180 kg. The reproductive performance of the Kharani camel is presented in table 10.

Marketing and future economic potential

The respondents stated that the animals are sold in the local market of the town and rarely sell locally. The owners are really wise and had almost eliminated the role of middleman. Though, the town merchant and butcher don’t pay good prices to the owners. Some smugglers buy local livestock at cheap prices and smuggle it to Iran and earn handsome money. The high milk yield is one of the best economic potentials of this breed.