In what could give the endangered Kutchi camel a fresh lease of life,the state Animal Husbandry Department is considering a Rs 1.25-crore proposal to help link up the camel breeders of Kutch with Sarhad dairy,the districts main dairy.
The proposal to establish a dairy unit for camel milk in Kutch is under consideration. The state would subsidise up to 70 per cent of costs. About 349 camel-breeders,each owning 30-40 camels,would be part of this initiative with Sarhad dairy. We plan to begin operations as soon as possible, said Dr Kacchia Patel,director of the states Animal Husbandry Department (AHD).
Meanwhile,camel-breeders will gather in Bhuj on Friday (June 22),the longest and hottest day of the year,which is being celebrated as World Camel day by the two-year-old Kutch Camel Breeders Association.
The main agenda is establishing a sustainable market for camel milk through camel milk dairy in Kutch. Both Sarhad dairy chairman Valamji Humbal and AHD deputy director Dr G A Mansuri are among the expected chief guests.
The dairy proposal is being seen by scientists,conservationists and breeders alike as salvation for a species that lost 26,000 of its members in just four years,leaving barely 12,000 camels in existence presently.
Various reasons have been attributed for the Kutchi camels rapid decline. Last year,Prof. D N Rank,an animal geneticist with the Veterinary College at Anand Agricultural University,found the species has low genetic diversity,which means they are less able to adapt to changing environments,worsening their chances of survival and reproduction patterns while increasing susceptibility to ailments in Kutch,where changes in weather have led to stark changes in agriculture,horticulture and animal husbandry.
Prof. Rank,however,says other factors like reluctance of the younger generation to continue pastoralism have also made the matters worse.
Subhash Chandra Wankar,deputy director of Kutchs AHD,believes the declining use of camels as load animals and a means of transport is also to blame.
Conservationist groups such as Sahjeevan,which was instrumental in helping the breeders association,say diversifying camel milk products may help. They have helped formulate ice-creams and kheer made from camel milk. Their counterparts in Rajasthan have developed ladoos and gulab jamuns,said Ramesh Bhatti,a team leader at Sahjeevan.
Interestingly,there is scientific evidence to show camel milk may be beneficial for health and it can be easily stored. A team led by Prof. Ranks colleague,Prof. K N Wadhwani,found last year that camel milk led to a 30% drop in the glucose levels of diabetic rats.
The researchers,who have been working with conservationists,also found camel milk can be stored for 10 hours at room temperature and for 25 days at 4 degrees C.