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

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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.

Barela Camel is the Milk Line of Riverine Pakistan

The camel is a unique and special genetic resource and a great gift of the nature to ensure livelihood in difficult situations. Camel! A One in All Creatures. The camel keepers all over the world had evolved a certain type of camel for a specific purpose, i.e. walking ability, adaptation to the certain environment, milk production etc. The Barela camel was mainly evolved for milk and meat to ensure food availability in the dry and hot ecosystems of its habitat.

Barela camel
This camel is very beautiful and a real milk line of the Barela breed

Barela camel is another important camel breed of the riverine region of Pakistan, especially Punjab. Actually, Berela is the camel of long traveling camel breeders of the region. The originate their travel from Thal desert of Sindh and reach up to Cholistan desert. Barela camel is good milk producing an animal in Pakistan. Many Brela camels are exported to the Gulf region for milk. Some were exported to the Horn of Africa. The genes of the Barela camels are found in wide and far regions of the dryland of the world.CHOLISTAN (A Future Food Basket)

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Some are darker than others. The darker type is better in milk than the light fawn

Barela camel is mostly reared in the Lesser Cholistan and on the fringe irrigated areas of district Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, and Rahim Yar Khan area. The Barela camels have heavy strong built and large body frame. The coat color varies from light sandy to dark brown with short coarse hair. Dark brown colored animals are preferred by local people.

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Barela camels have a muscular body with dome-shaped head. The head is heavy, with a well-defined looking. The neck is medium sized with the marked curve. Eyes are bright, round with alert look and are protruding. Nose is thick, lips pendulous and ears are rounded and coarse.download

Shoulders are strong, broad and well set to the chest. Hump is very well developed in males and is placed in the center of the back. The chest pad is well developed and its touching ground evenly shows good confirmation. Legs are strong, bony, stout and well separated so that legs do not rub while walking. Hind legs are slightly weaker than forelegs and are inward curved. The foot pads are medium sized and soft. The milk vein is zigzag, wide and prominent. Milking capacity of the female camel is around 10 liters in an ordinary grazing system. The selected and well-fed animals can produce up to 35 kg of milk per day with a lactation yield of up to 12,000 kg.

Brela Breed Bull
Heavy and massive body.

 

Barela camel Herd

Beautiful Barela camel
A young camel herder with a Barela camel
A beautiful Barela camel with her family
She is the boss and the central force of the herd. She is the leader camel

Beautiful herd of Barela camel

Barela camel herd with different types of color and faces.
we can see a Marrecha camel with special ears in the Barela herd
The Barela camel Pastoralist,
Usually, they have very attractive and beautiful eyes

Barela camel pastoralist explaining the salient features of Barela camelA cropland farmer passes with a Barela camel herd

Barela camel
The heaviest and longest camels

Beautiful Barela camel

A big herd of Barela camel breed
The camel move in a big herd from place to place
Cholistan desert
Barela camel breeders
Cholistan camel breeds and pastoralists
An overnight stay of the Barela camel Pastoralists in Southern Punjab, the vicinity of the Cholistan desert

Barela camel herd but the first looking camel is more visible to Marrecha camelDSC_0495

These Breela camels won the milk competition in Punjab Pakistan
These Brela camels won the milk competition

Reference

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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.