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Camel the ship of the desert

  Camel the ship of the desert


Camel the ship of the desert is fast sinking in India. Once India stood third in camel population as 1,520 million  after Somalia -6,000 million  and Sudan -2.856 million. But now the Indian camel population is estimated to be only about half a million. The reasons for this alarming dip in camel population are many shrinking of pastureland (especially the Indira Gandhi Canal in Rajasthan, has eaten into prime camel pastures converting these into farms), rising expenses and the animals being slaughtered for their.

There are two species of camels: the dromedary or Arabian camel has a single hump, and the Bactrian camel has two humps. Dromedaries are native to the dry desert areas of West Asia, and Bactrian camels are native to Central and East Asia. Both species are domesticated; they provide milk and meat, and are beasts of burden.

The average life expectancy of a camel is 40 to 50 years. A fully grown adult camel stands 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in) at the shoulder. The hump rises about 30 inches (76.20 cm) out of its body. Camels can run at up to 65 km/h in short bursts

 Eco-behavioral adaptations

A camel's thick coat is one of their many adaptations that aid them in desert-like conditions. Their ability to withstand long periods without water is due to a series of physiological adaptations.Their red blood cells have an oval shape,  facilitates their flow in a dehydrated state.These cells are also more stable  in order to withstand high osmotic variation without rupturing when drinking large amounts of water in one drink. Camels are able to withstand changes in body temperature and water content that would kill most other animals. They can withstand at least 20-25% weight loss due to sweating.

Camels eating green herbage can ingest sufficient moisture in milder conditions to maintain their bodies' hydrated state without the need for drinking. Camels  thick coat reflects sunlight, and also insulates it from the intense heat radiated from desert sand. Their long legs help by keeping them further from the hot ground.

Camels mouth is very sturdy, able to chew thorny desert plants such as Kejari. The kidneys and intestines of a camel are very efficient at retaining water.

  Camel cavalry

Camel cavalry have been used in wars throughout Africa, the Middle East and into modern-day India. Armies have also used camels as freight animals instead of horses and mules. The United States Army established the U.S. Camel Corps, which was stationed in California in the 19th century. France created a méhariste camel corps as part of the Armée d'Afrique in the Sahara from 1902.The camel- mounted units remained in service until the end of French rule in 1962.

In 1916, during World War I, the British created the Imperial Camel Corps. Also during World War I, the British Army created the Egyptian Camel Transport Corps, which consisted of a group of Egyptian camel drivers and their camels.

The Bikaner Camel Corps (Ganga Risala) was a military unit from India that fought for the allies in World War I and World War II. Presently the Camel Corps constitutes an important wing of the Border Security Force of Indian para-military service. In fact India is probably the only country in the world where the Border Security Force (BSF) not only does the job of protecting our frontiers but also trains life expectancy of a camel camels to be part of a full fledged band! 
  The BSF is the single biggest employer of camels. Largest in Asia, the BSF camel farm in Bikaner is managed by the central government and breeds about half of the camel population in India. Tourists coming here are delighted by the sight of baby camels and their antics. 

Camel Milk

Popularising camel milk is the focus now. It may not be the fabled fountain of youth, but camel milk may soon become the latest beauty secret for those who want to look young. Researchers at the national research centre on Camel (NRCC) in the eastern Rajasthan district of Bikaner have developed an anti-wrinkle cream from camel milk. 
  Further camel milk is healthier than cow /goat milk and according to the research conducted at the diabetes care and research centre, SP Medical college Bikaner, a litre of camel milk contains about 52 units of insulin. Drinking camel milk could help in controlling diabetes, when it is in its first stage.

Camel milk soaps are already sold in the United States, where manufacturers claim that they are rich in vitamin C and anti-oxidants. Bars are sold for as much as $7 ( Rs 315) each. After camel milk face cream with its anti wrinkle properties, it is now the turn of camel milk ice-cream that has just been launched in Rajasthan. 
   Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has estimated that camel milk has a potential global market of $10 billion a year, with 200 million potential customers in the Arab world, Africa, Europe and America.

  Camel Meat

Camel meat has been eaten for centuries. It has been recorded by ancient Greek writers as an available dish in ancient Persia at banquets, usually roasted whole. The ancient Roman emperor Heliogabalus enjoyed camel's heel. Camel meat is still eaten in certain regions including Somalia, where it is called Hilib geel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Kazakhstan and other arid regions where alternative forms of protein may be limited or where camel meat has had a long cultural history.

Killing a camel for meat in India is a taboo, but there are many castes which eat camel meat on special occasions. In India there is  one rural community — the Raikas of Rajasthan, totally devoted to the welfare of the camels from time immemorial. “They feel responsible for camel welfare and traditionally have never sold female camels”, explains Koehler-Rollefson, a German veterinarian with the League of Pastoral People who has been researching the Raikas since the early 1990’s.

  Camel Safari and fair


A success had been achieved by the Indian Tourism Department in popularising exotic camel safaris and camel rides in the Rajasthan desert. 
  The annual Pushkar Camel fair from November 13 to November 21, 2010, iwas the largest in the world. But the camel traded in the Pushkar fair have reduced from  50,000 in 1999 to less than 20,000 in 2009.

  Camel hide and hair in craft

The Rajasthan Small Industries Corporation Ltd. (RSIC) operates a camel hide training centre at Bikaner to promote this languishing craft. Camel hide craft was originally done on screens and on the walls of palaces. One of the principle characteristic of this craft is that the gold lacquer has a permanent effect and does not wither with the passage of time. 
  Bikaner city is the most famous for items stitched out of camel hide. Carpets made of camel wool, are good buys. The late Hissamuddin Ustad of Bikaner, a master craftsman, who was awarded the Padmashree in 1986, was a legend in  this art. Long camel bones are in demand as cheap replacement of ivory.

The camel hair is being utilised for making carpets durries, bags, blankets, wall-hangings by the farmers and also village level handicraft industry.


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