Tag Archives: Rohi and Rohila

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. 

 

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.