Decline in India’s camel population is worrying

News: According to the article published in National Geographic, the camel population in India has been in decline, especially in Rajasthan because of the Indira Gandhi Canal which hampered the movement of Raikas and Camels.

What were the reasons behind the decline in the camel population?

Fewer dairy benefits: Long gestation period (15 months); limited saleable meat yield (less than 5 kg a day), high cost of maintenance, high cost of milk, and strong flavour of camel milk, all make it unsuitable for the domesticating camel for economic benefits.

Change in lifestyle: Replacement of the nomadic-pastoral way of life by agriculture. Individually owned farmlands that are often fenced restrict the movements of camels. Camels are rarely used for ploughing along with that shrinking of grazing grounds, shortage of fodder also a reason for reduced camel population.

Other means of transport: Camels are replaced largely by road networks.

Raikas- The Raikas are a specialized caste of pastoralists from northwestern India, particularly the arid and semi-arid parts of Rajasthan. Although they also raise goats, cattle, sheep, and water buffalo, the most important animal for Raika’s cultural identity is the camel. The Raika and their camels talk to each other; this language/conversation is called akal-dhakaal.

Fewer benefits for Raikas: Raikas do not sell dead camels for their bones and also do not eat camel meat. Raikas believe they were born of Lord Siva’s skin to protect camels.

How does the Rajasthan government aims to protect camels?

Rajasthan’s government enacted The Rajasthan Camel (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act, 2015. The Act aims to prohibit the slaughter of camels and also to regulate their temporary migration or export from Rajasthan.

But the Act does not show positive results. Camels are now sold in the grey market, further driving down camel prices. Camels that should normally command a price of Rs 40,000 plus, reportedly sell in this grey market for less than Rs 5,000. The ban has benefitted only the meat traders and corrupt officials.

What the government should do?

Camel-rearing still has potential economic opportunities and have great demand in the Middle East. So, the government should

1. Focus on controlling the decline of the camel population, 2. Empower Raikas with education, trading skills, etc.

Source: This post is based on the article “Decline in India’s camel population is worrying” published in the Indian Express on 25th November 2021.

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