Marrecha Camel~An all purpose camel of Cholistan, Pakistan

Dancing camel

Dancing of the Marrecha Camel of Pakistan.

The Cholistan desert is part of the ancient Hakra River civilization, one of the oldest of the Aryan settlers in the Indian subcontinent. It is one of the largest deserts in Pakistan, inhabited by around 1.2 million Rohi pastoral people practicing mobile livestock husbandry. This production system is extremely important for food security and conservation of livestock and landscape.

The camel is one of the important animal genetic resources and about 80,000 are found in the desert. The main tribe with camel herds is Marrecha. The desert pastoralists also raise goats, sheep and cattle breeds. The major camel breed is Marrecha following by Brela. The precious camel genetic resources are under threat due to commercial agricultural practices, land grabbing and faulty development projects.IMG-20160730-WA0023.jpg

The policies come from the top and pastoral peoples do not participate in formulating strategies for development. Hence the projects are not supported by local livestock keepers and always result in failure. There is an urgent need to save this pastoral livestock system, especially the camel breeds. It is suggested that niche marketing, value addition, ecotourism and participation of pastoral people in development policies may help achieve this goal. Organization of the livestock keepers in the region can be an efficient tool to halt land grabbing.

For details, please click at the link below;

http://www.pastoralismjournal.com/content/1/1/3

International Camel Conference at Islamia University Bahawalpur Pakistan

The International Camel Conference (ICC) under the patronage of Camel Association of Pakistan and the Islamia University of Bahawalpur was organized in Baghdad campus of Islamia University (19-21 Dec 2013). Bahawalpur being the city of the great Thar desert and home of camel culture was the right choice for this event. Many scientists, research scholars, camel herders and students from different universities and institutions participated in this important event on the camel. Many animal scientists, students and camel herders from Balochistan province also participated.

Marrecha camel safari caravan passing nearby the Dirawarr Forte
Camel is the unique heritage of the region Cholistan

FAO Balochistan chapter sponsored a group of camel herders and L&DD officials to participate in the conference. The conference was very versatile of its nature, not only covered the camel science but provided a good opportunity to camel people to know about the camel culture of great Thar desert which is famously known as the Cholistan. The vice-chancellor of the IslamiUniversityty (Dr Iftikhar) was very kind and humble while providing all the best facilities and opportunities to the conference participants. Camel scientists from 7 different countries also participated.The Desert’s Livestock Species Have Tremendous Potential for Milk Produciton

Image

The scientists presented their work on camel culture, milk production potential, milk characteristics, camel breeds and breeding, diseases and economic opportunities etc. The local media covered the event in a very nice way and kept the country audience and viewers aware regarding the conference. At the end of the camel conference, the following recommendations were suggested.

  • To maintain camel genetic and production diversity with the involvement of the camel herders and policymakers
  • To maintain camel habitats, especially Cholistan desert intact and safe from land grabbing etc
  • The slogan of ‘DESERT SHOULD REMAIN THE DESERT‘ was given for Eco-conservation of Camels and ‘SAVE PASTROLISM
  • More interaction development among the camel people, camel scientists and policymakers should initiate
  • Research on camel diseases and other health issues should initiate and coordinate with the international bodies in this field
  • Publication of full-length articles of the abstracts received in ICC-2013 in a peer-reviewed journal
  • Industry Liaison for Value Addition of camel products
  • Enhanced collaboration with foreign camel researchers and institute

IMG_2082[1].jpgCamel conference was a great opportunity, except the bad weather with the heavy fog. At the end of the conference, the meeting of the CAP was organized and some decisions were made. The decisions of the CAP are given in the ensuing lines.

  • The foreign scientist (not more than 5) will be invited purely on merit basis to make it more worthwhile and fruitful
  • The meeting was held on 21st Dec at 8 pm
  • I suggested a seminar (with very specific title) and with very specific number of participants
  • The seminar will be in the month of Jan or Feb 2015, as the next ISOCARD is in June 2015 Almatay Kazakhstan
  • The venue of the meeting will be decided later but most probably, Karachi, Uthal, Quetta or Lahore
  • CAP member list will be compiled according to the registered members in 3 categories, i.e.
  1. category A. Scientist/Activist/NGOs
  2. Category B. Camel Herders
  3. Category C. Students
  • Next election will be held on the occasion of the Seminar in 2015
  • The CAP registration amount, other income and expenditure if any, will be compiled and will be present to the cabinet
  • A Skype/online consultative meeting of the willing CAP members or other scientists to highlight/fix and mention the priority areas on camel in Pakistan

I am very pleased now, as the importance of camel is being appreciated in Pakistan. In the climate change context and challenge of food security; camel is the best choice to accept these challenges.

Camel Milk Competition in Cholistan

Camel milk competition concluded last evening here in Cholistan desert (of Pakistan). It was quite interesting in many ways and I felt that at least I should share some of its salient features. It started on 12th October and concluded on 14th. Some 40 camels (locally called Dachis) contested and some owners had more than one. All animals were towards the end of their lactation. The size of the calf also matched with this narration. First thing was that it was not the best time for such competitions because camels generally calve in Jan/Feb/March and better time could have been April/May.Barela Camel is the Milk Line of Riverine Pakistan
 These Breela camels won the milk competition in Punjab Pakistan
The participants were not just the men and grownup boys as happens with our cattle/buffalo competitions in March every year. Rather families were there. Milkers combinations were man and wife or man and daughter or mother and daughter or mother and son etc. It was heartening to see these lively families. Amma Pathani (Mom Pathani) was very prominent. She contested like other men and forced even me (the chief judge) to announce results of every camel first in the local dialect, then in local language and then in national language as it was difficult for her (and other contestants, mostly unable to read or write) to wait for more than few seconds. So I had to round things for announcing and remain precise on paper. Her camel got 4th position and was given a special prize. Milk yield (once a day milking, recorded for two days) for 1st, 2nd and 3rd position camels was 17.1 (Bawali), 15.7 (Katti) and 15.1 (Malookan.  I wonder if they could produce at this level in 9-10th months of their lactation what would be the yield in the 2nd month after calving. We will see next year.
 Another important yet expected information was that most of these animals were 2nd and 3rd calvers with some 1st calvers and very few in later parities. Most belonged to either Barela (the dairy breed) or a cross between Barela and Marecha (the racing and dancing breed). Very few were Sindhi or crossbred Sindhis.
Camel dances at the event were worth watching. We had to walk on sand (with camels on our back) about 2 km to the prize distribution ceremony and dances continued. People seemed drunk with camel milk as they did not stop for a second. Age was not a limiting factor. It ranged from ~4 to >80.
 An important announcement is that next year’s camel milk and dance competitions will coincide (conclude) with the camel day, 22nd June. As announced previously, camel conference is planned next year at Bahawalpur and site of milk competition is just 35 km from the city.
Camels from Pakistan are going to Gulf and even to France (for camel milk chocolate) but without a proper breeding and replacement system, my fear is that sustainability issue will haunt in future. Exploitation of camel herders is also feared. Thanks to all those who kept encouraging and were even trying to see everything through sound waves. We will try to post on this discussion forum as the next year events unfold. Few photos are placed. More photos with videos will be posted on http://fangrpk.org.
Reported by
Dr. M. Sajjad Khan
Professor/National Project Director
Dept. Animal Breeding and Genetics
University of Agriculture Faisalabad 38040
PAKISTAN

 

World Camel Day (22 June) was Celebrated in UAF

World camel day was celebrated in Pakistan on 22 June. At University of Agricultural Faisalabad the main event was arranged by the newly incepted Camel Association of Pakistan (CAP). The seminar organized for the purpose had many technical presentations and was also attended by winners of camel essay competitions arranged among schools and colleges. Camel song from a folklore of Sassi-Punno (Uthan walay tur jan gey) was soothing as outside temperature touched 47C today. Many of us enjoyed camel and camel-cart rides and tasted the camel milk tea for the first time. The camel biryani was delicious too.

The venue for 2013 International Camel Conference was announced by the Ex-livestock minister as Islamia University Bahawalpur. Various universities and institutions will collaborate to hold the conference. Participants are expected to see closely the camel keepers of Cholistan desert and will have a chance to visit the 17th century Derawar fort (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derawar_Fort) just 100 km from the venue. So start preparing for the conference. I hope CAP will announce the conference details soon.

 

The day was very hot yet it was pleasant to be part of efforts promoting this unique animal.

 

World Camel Day (June 22)

Indigenous/local livestock Species/breeds are well adapted to the dry and marginal lands of the world. Such breeds use the scarce resources of such lands and produce high valued and precious products for food. Among such adapted livestock species, camel is the most important one and is well appreciated in this regards.  Camel is highly adapted to such dry and marginal lands, ensuring the livelihood of the millions of people. Camel is not only an efficient biological machine of the difficult environment but can be a solution for many difficult questions (drought, climate change, water and feed scarcity and food security challenge) of the future.

Juvenile Brela camel of Cholistan Desert of Pakistan

Camel uses water and feed resources very sensibly under very harsh and hostile environmental conditions.  Camel is a very effective biological model, needs very scarce inputs and produce efficiently more than other livestock on per unit feed/water consumption. Details about the unique characteristics of camel can be revising from the following link:

http://www.articlesbase.com/nature-articles/a-unique-and-fascinating-creature-the-camel-4217611.html

In spite of all its characteristics camel is neglected animal among the policymakers both at national and international levels. Such negligence is resulting in the sinking of camel culture and there is a severe camel decline in some Asian countries, especial South East Asia. In the near past and present, the importance of camel is well realized and documented at different levels. Many scientific works of literature were produced to highlight camel importance on various aspects of camel, especially camel genetic resources and its milk production potential. Many camel projects were initiated and still continue on camel milk and other aspects in different parts of the world. To highlight the importance of camel and its challenges, a world camel day was proposed by the author and ultimately 22 June was declared as world camel day. Camel day will be celebrated in many parts of the world by camel scientists and activist to highlight it as an integral part of biodiversity and efficient biological model in the dry and deserted lands of the world.

camel4life.jpeg
Author Riding Horse at the Doulat Camel Farm, Almaty Kazakhstan

Camels4Life, International Society of Camelids Research and Development (ISOCARD), Camel Association of Pakistan (CAP), Society of animal, vet and environmental scientists (SAVES) and LIFE Network Pakistan is going to celebrate this day by conducting seminars and media campaign in Pakistan. A page on Facebook is composed and the link is given below.

https://www.facebook.com/Camel4all

A link about the theme of the world camel day (2018)

The Camel Milk Story from the Gobi Desert Mongolia

As UN is celebrating the decade of Biodiversity, it is very in place to celebrate camel day and correlate it with the decade of biodiversity. Camel is very integral part of the world’s biodiversity and not harmful for flora/vegetation as camel takes few bites and walk to the other plant. Camel pad is like the cushion and not harmful for the plants in the rangelands and desert.

Kohi camel of Suleiman Mountains browsing on the twigs of acacia in the dry season

I’m hereby thankful to all camel scientists and activists who supported me for declaring a world camel day. I appeal to all the camel stakeholders, either they are herders, scientists or activist to take the active part in celebrating world camel day and to raise awareness about the uniqueness of camel and its products.

International Camel Conference in Pakistan

A meeting of the camel association of Pakistan (CAP) was held in the faculty of Animal Husbandry, university of agriculture Faislalabad on 25th March, 2012. All the camel issues were discussed. New cabinet of the CAP was constituted. Also working groups on various aspects of camel in Pakistan and CAP were formulated. Image

An international conference on camel was announced here in Pakistan in the month of November next year (Nov. 2013). Venue and fixed date will be announce later on. Image

Camel and other Livestock~ A tool for Healthier Food and Rural Development in Cholistan Desert

Summary

Cholistan Desert (also locally known as Rohi) sprawls thirty kilometers from Bahawalpur, covers an area of 16,000 km². It adjoins the Thar Desert extending over to Sindh and into India. The word the Cholistan is derived from the Turkish word Chol, which means Desert. The Cholistan thus means Land of the Desert. The people of Cholistan lead a semi-nomadic life, moving from one place to another in search of water and fodder for their animals. The dry bed of the Hakra River runs through the area, along which many settlements of the Indus Valley Civilisation have been found. The present-day Cholistan is a part of the ancient Hakra civilization (HakraRiver), one of the oldest civilizations of the Aryan settlers in the Indian subcontinent. The Cholistan is home to diverse and unique animal genetic resources. Such animals are highly adapted to the local ecosystem and provide food in very low input systems or even zero inputs. Both the Rohi people and their animal genetic resources are always neglected and underestimated. The climate change challenges push the scientists and policymakers to characterize and document the true worth of these important animal breeds and to convert it in wealth and power of the Rohi people.

Falling in southern Punjab, Cholistan is one of the largest deserts of the country and part of the great Indian Desert. The Cholistan comprises three districtsBahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, and Rahim Yar Khan. The total area of Cholistan is 66,55,360 acres. The largest area of Cholistan is present inBahawalpurwhich is 40,28,217 acres. The temperature ranges in the Cholistan from 6 to 50°C. The length of Cholistan is 480 km and width ranges from 32 to 192 km. The human population of Cholistan is 1,55,000 whereas the livestock population is 13,18,000. Table 1 shows some more facts are summarized below.

Table 1. A glance at some basic facts about the Cholistan

S #

Particulars

Units

1 Area 16,000 km2
2 Area spread (kms) 480 x 32-192
3 Area in acres 66,55,360
4

Bahawalnagar

10,11,200 acres
5

Bahawalpur

40,28,217 acres
6

R Y Khan

16,15,965 acres
7 Lesser Cholistan 33,00,000 acres
8 Greater Cholistan 17,55,360 acres
9 Human Population

1,55,000 heads

10 Livestock population

13,18,000 heads

11 Cholistani Cattle

6,67,000 heads

12 Camel

80,000 heads

13 Goats

2,20,000 heads

14 Sheep

3,51,000 heads

15 Temperature range

6-50ºC

16 Groundwater

Mostly brackish

17 Latitude

28.25

18 Latitude (DMS)

28º 15’0 N

19 Longitude

70.75

20 Longitude (DMS)

70º 45’0 E

The groundwater for these populations is mostly brackish. The inhabitants of Cholistan are called Rohi and the main tribe of the camel herders is Marrecha. The camel that belongs to Marrecha tribe is known as Marrecha breed. The other tribe which usually resides on the peripheries of the desert adjoining to irrigated lands is called Malgade. Malgade usually keeps the Brela camel. The Cholistan is the homeland of many precious animal genetic resources i.e. camel, cattle, sheep, and goat. Most of the Cholistan is covered with the wide range of nutritious and drought tolerant species of vegetation. Deep in desert, the camel mostly rely on Khar, Lana, Jand, and Kareer, while in the peripheries mostly kikar is available along the water courses and roadside (Table 2).

Table 2 showing the vegetation available for the camel in Cholistan desert

Trees

Bushes

Local Name Botanical Name Local Name Botanical Name
Kareer Capparis aphylla Khar Suaeda fruticosa
Jand Prosopis cineraria Lana Haloxylon salincornicum
Kikar Acacia nilotica Lani Salsola foetida
Mallah Zizyphus nummularia

Prosopis tree deep in the desert
Prosopis cineraria 

 Cholistan Development Activities

 The water sources available in the desert are comprised of Toba system and water supply provided by the Cholistan Development Authority and that of PCRWR. Toba is a pond, where rainwater is collected and stored after rains and camels were gathered for drinking before stating their browsing of the day. This water used by all the inhabitants of desert until it dries up. Here are some famous tobas of the desert.

cropped-camel-in-cholistan-desert.jpg
A Toba in Cholistan, the place of meeting livestock and the pastoralists. A social hub in the desert.

  1. Kala Pahar
  2. Thandi Khoi
  3. Toba Meer Gargh Fort
  4. Muttanwali
  5. Toba Moaj Gargh
  6. Kheer Sar
  7. Haiderwali
  8. Channan Peer and
  9. Ghurkan Rest House.

 

Image
Butchi sheep of Cholistan

 

Animal Genetic Resources in the Living Desert of Cholistan (Rohi)

Cattle

Cholistani cattle is the best animal in habitats like the Cholistan and a source of income for pastoral people. This breed is medium size, well-developed udder and color range from red and black spotted with white background. Some species are purely red. Cholistani cattle possess well-developed hanging dewlap. The population of Cholistani cattle is 6,67,000 which is the maximum among Livestock population. Milk production potential of these animals is 8-10 liter per day in the desert area and lactation length is the 8-9 month. But install feeding management 18-20 liter per day with 7-8 month lactation length.

CATTLE
Cholistani Cattle Bull

The maximum milk record is 29 liter per day at Jugaitpeer Farm. Despite the problems faced like lack of proper feeding pattern, poor ranges, long drought, lack of concentrate feed and water and low prices in the inner Cholistan, these perform well.

Sheep & Goat

 There are three sheep breeds of sheep viz; Sipli (northern periphery of Cholistan), Buchi (in a central part of the desert) and Kadali (in the rear Cholistan or nearby R Y Khan Distt). Very common breed of goat is the local hairy goat.

The population of sheep is 3,51,000 while goat is 2,20,00 heads in Cholistan desert. There are two seasons of shearing one is spring and other is autumn shearing. The average wool production of Ram and Ewes is 5-6 kg in spring shearing and 3-5 kg in autumn shearing. The main purpose of farming of sheep breed is wool production. The wool price of these breeds is Rs 25/- per shearing but it has no future scope. Lots of wool stays in the desert, which is lying there at the mercy of natural vagaries. We suggest that L&DD Dept and CDA should do something collectively to bring this wool to some use. Wool Lab atBahawalpurcan also plays its role.

Camel Breeds

There are two types of camel breeds of Cholistan, one is Marrecha and second one is Brela. The camel population is almost 70,000 heads. About sixty (60%) population is Marrecha which is a beautiful animal and used for dancing purpose. While 40% population is of Brela which is a milking animal and maximum milk record of this breed is 22 liter. The milking season of Brela is from October to March.

Marrecha

The average herd size of the Marrecha camel is 37. The majority are female with 20-25 lactating camels. The color ranges from blackish brown to light brown while the majority is fawn. Marrecha has long thin neck, long legs, long eyelashes, hair on the ears & neck with medium head and pointed muzzles. The rabbit-like ears are the salient feature of this breed. The top priority of Marrecha herders is to produce drought camels for the transportation of their families in the desert. As Marrecha is highly demanded its racing ability and beauty, the herders stress on its beauty trait also.

Image

Fig. Animal Genetic Resource~ Marrecha camel of Cholistan

This breed is mainly used for the transportation and riding in the desert. The male is trained for many events and riding in the desert ecology. There is high demand for Marrecha camel by the race hobbyist in local market andMiddle East. The Marrecha camel is liked by the hobbyists and the carters of the cities and produces milk in harsh conditions with high temperature and scarcity of feed & water. This characteristic of Marrecha camel enabling its’ herders to live in deep and use the camel milk as food security. As Marrecha camel found in the deep desert, therefore it is milked when the pastoral family needs it. They provide a good amount of milk to male calves for vigor and good health in future.

Types of male animals are sold at the age of 3-4 years at different times of the year. They sell it locally and at the famous camel fairs also. Channan Peer fair is one of the famous destinations of the male Marrecha animals. The average price is almost Rs. 50,000/- to 70,000/- but some animals may attain a price of  Rs 4-5 lacs according to its beauty, attraction, and taste of the buyer.

Brela

The average herd size of the Brela camel is 26, with the majority of the female. The lactating camel ranges from 23-27% of the herd but depends upon the status of the year (dry or wet). The color ranges from blackish brown to light brown while the majority is deep brown, sometimes white specimen are also found. Brela is one of the massive breed of the country with the thick neck, wide chest, muscular legs and massive head. The hanging lip is one of the salient features of the breed. Brela camel is mainly raised for milk and male animals are sold for meat purpose. This is one of the high milk producing animal and produces up to 22 liters per day. The docility of the breed stands as its special trait. Any stranger can milk it any time of the day. It is also easy in adaptation in any kind of ecosystem, which is a tool, which can be used in the areas for milk production where camel had never been raised.

Brela

Fig. Brela camel Breed

The Brela camel originates from the ThaldesertofPakistan. Thal desert is already squeezed and remained only 32%. The rest of Thal desert is irrigated and brought under canal irrigation. The people replaced from that area starred a new strategy of camel production. They migrate from Thal to the Cholistan in August and stay here for 5 months and go back to Thal and their irrigated areas. They move along the road and railway tracks and their camel browse on vegetation available and whenever they find open areas, the aftermath of the crops, or labor the nearby fields, they stay there for a limited time. They also stay near the peripheries of the cities to sell camel milk, which usually is mixed in buffalo milk by the middleman and sold in the cities. They know the cultural events of their migratory routes and hence they participate in the melas (fairs) to sell their male animals and milk. They had adopted a very good strategy to keep the camel production system viable. Brela camel is milked very regularly twice the time. The women usually sell the milk and the earning usually goes to them. As Brela is good milk producer with sustainable lactation yield is resulting from a good source of earning in the form of milk for its herders especially the woman folks.

 Problems and Constraints

 Squeezing lands is one of the major problems for camel production systems in Pakistan, especially Cholistan desert. The desert had already brought under cultivation and the land allotted in the majority of the cases to the influential people of the country. The Brela camel herders and other livestock keepers were replaced and never compensated for their losses. Because of no representation in the policy-making organizations and legislation. they couldn’t raise their voice against this cruelty. The small ruminants and cattle breeders already left the occupation of livestock husbandry but the camel herders adapted a new way while moving long routes with their camel and traveling up to the desert of Cholistan. The Cholistan is also squeezing in size, the land grabbing is one of the important issues and the grazing lands are decreasing every day.

Image

Fig. The dancer~ Marrecha camel

The Marrecha camel herders usually live and migrate with their camels in the deep desert according to the availability of foliage and accessibility of water. In such a remote and far-flung area, there is no market for camel products i.e. milk and wool, etc. The Brela camel herders take benefits of the roads in the peripheries for their milk sale. No doubt the male camel of Marrecha breed catch good prices in the fairs mostly buys for racing/riding and carting, etc. The female of the Brela catches very high price because of the interest of the Gulf countries in the breed for its appreciable milk production. But this scenario is not good for the sustainability of this breed. The Brela camel herders sell their precious animals to buy a piece of land for settlement in the peripheries of Cholistan, as they fear to lose the Cholistan because of land grabbing Mafia. This is a bad state of the situation for the high yielding camel like Brela.

Suggestions

a. For development workers and public institutions value, addition to camel products will be a great idea to eradicate extreme poverty in such a plunged area and enhance rural livelihood.

b. From scientist’s perspectives, we suggest that Camel is the animal of the future and can be an important tool to combat the new challenges like drought, climate changes, global warming and creeping desertification, emerging diseases and competition for feed & water resources.

c.Development of the camel race industry can bring the smile to the Rohi people as it may attract billion of Rupees in the area. Marrecha camel of the region is the best choice in this regards.

This will require a holistic approach on all facets of camel production by all players on the ground with the help of Rohi people to make a difference in their lives and also convert this future food basket into safe and health promising camel milk. How early it can be done, will depend on how serious we are to bring this dream into reality.