Tag Archives: Camel Racing

A Beautiful Camel Heritage is Sinking

IMG_0537A precious camel heritage of Marrecha in Cholistan desert is at risk. This brief study tells, how this beautiful culture is eroding because of the negligence of the policymakers. It is very crucial to involve the native livestock keepers in policies regarding research and development of the region but unfortunately, it is happening the otherwise. ♠♠♠♥♥

Where is the Cholistan Desert?

Having seen many deserts of the world, I’m quite sure that Cholistan desert is one of the most beautiful and living deserts of the world. No doubt, it is a desert but acts as a food bucket (animal origin) for the country since ages.  The commune of the Cholistan is called Rohila and the tribe rearing camel is called Marrecha. This cherished desert is situated in the South–West of Punjab province (Pakistan) and is spread over an area of 26,000 square kilometers. It is located between latitudes of 27° to 42° and 29°N and longitude of 57° to 60°E. The length of the desert is about 480 Km and breadth is from 32 to 192 Km.

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The map of the Cholistan desert

The Ecosystems and the Camel Adaptation

The Pakistani camel breeds are highly diversified at inter and intra breed basis Rapid change of strategy is necessary for development of dromedary camel pastoralism in the Cholistan desert of Pakistan and found in different ecological zones of the country. Each breed/type has its own uniqueness and usefulness based on the breeding goals of the relevant breeding community. Cholistani pastoralists (Rohila or Marreche) predominantly keep the highly adapted desert camel Marrecha (gets its name from Marrecha tribe). The Marrecha breeders have their own native wisdom and knowledge of conservation and management of animal genetic resources.

The Marrecha Camel

The Marrecha breeders have their own native wisdom and knowledge of conservation and management of animal genetic resources. The Marrecha commune living in the deep desert works as an institution, treasured with precious knowledge of the ecosystems, available natural resources, especially vegetation, biological and natural health, animal breeding and survival and resilience in climate change scenario.

 

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The caravan of Marrecha camels passing by the Killa Dirawar

 

The Marreche Institutions and the Camel Genetic Resources 

The Marreche breeders are color sensitive as in the other parts of the world. They only consider a camel Marrecha if it has coat color from sandy, blackish brown to light brown. CAMEL REARING IN CHOLISTAN DESERT OF PAKISTAN. The pastoralists have a very clear stance on the breeds and the special traits which they use as their basic breeding goals.DSC04312.JPG

Marrecha herders’ top priority (breeding goal) is to produce pack camels for transportation of goods and families in the desert. They consider the hardiness, intelligence, and obedience as important but special traits for their camels. Along with the special traits, they use phenotypic traits as the markers of the genetic potential and adaptation to the deserted ecosystem.  These animals are lightly built, medium sized with a medium head which is carried on a lean long beautifully curved neck Dancing Marrecha Camel of Cholistan Pakistan.  Some of the phenotypic traits are listed below.DSC04311.JPG

  1. The flat and wide foot pad (walking ability in desert)
  2. The mouth is small with tight lips
  3. prominent round bright eyes, and narrow muzzle
  4. Long eyelashes and long hair on the ears and neck
  5. lean long beautifully curved neck covered with long hair
  6. small ear (Rabbit like) with dense air like brush
  7. The legs are thinner but strong, fine and well shaped
  8. the cylindrical body
  9. Medium head with a protruded nose

Marrecha camel

The Output Potential and the Worth of the Marrecha Camel

  • As a riding/packed Animal: Marrecha camels are fine, fast and gracious looking, so they are called the riding camels.  Marrecha can travel from 100 to 125 Km/ day at a high speed of 20-25 Km per hour. As a pack animal, it can transport 300 to 400 kg weight and can travel up to 50 km/day.
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  • As a Milk Animal: Milk production is the secondary job of the Marrecha camel. Because of its highly adapted nature, it produces milk in harsh conditions with high ambient temperatures and scarcity of feed and water. These characteristics of the Marrecha camel enable camel herders to live and stay deep in the desert and depend on the camel milk for food. The Marrecha pastoralists have an average herd size of 37 camels, majority female (20-25% lactating camels) Marrecha camel of Cholistan Desert. A good Marrecha camel can produce up to 10 milk/day and produces up to 250 days in the ordinary grazing management in the desert. A lactation yield of 1500 kg is expected from an average lactating camel in the desert of Cholistan. 

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The Camel Heritage is sinking here…

The Marrecha pastoralists are facing the burden of constraints with a complex nature. Here the problems are presented in the bullets below.

  • Contrast to other deserts, the Cholistan is squeezing in size and the grazing lands are shrinking
  • The land right/grazing rights are not honored and the land grabbing is mounting with each moment of the time
  • The influentials from other regions and provinces allow the grazing lands of the pastoralists and shoot the camels entering in the allotted lands
  • Unfortunately, Cholistan desert is exactly situated along the world’s complex border between Pakistan and India
  • The movement restriction among the pastoralists on both sides of the border is resulting in the deterioration of the Marrecha breed because of the stipulation of the crossbreeding with other desert types of camels (Bikaneri and Jaisalmeri).
  • The region is one of the hot spots of the climate change which embracing the pastoralists with the complex challenges, especially new and fatal diseases.
  • The policy makers avoid engaging the pastoralists in policies, resulting in the Cholistan into the graveyard of the failed project. 

 

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).