Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Where have all the camels gone?

At The Rajasthan Diwas in Kolkata, 2005
I have very fond memories of Jhumroo from my childhood. Jhumroo was a camel I grew up watching and playing with till he was four years old. Though too big for a child like me, he was my playmate with whom I indulged in riding, playing and even fighting.
After good many years, the next
time I got to ride a camel was on Rajasthan Diwas of 2005 on the champion camel pair called Dhola Maru named after the mystical Rajasthani folklore about the Romeo and Juliet-like love story of Narwar prince Dhola and Poogal princess Maru who escape with their life on a mystical flying camel.
I remember when this camel pair were brought near South City in Kolkata to get down from the truck, people were awestruck by the sight of large four-legged humped creatures on city roads. The police were called in to manage the crowds.
At that time I had thrown a house party on desert theme and camel rides turned out to be a hot favourite with the guests.
I am very upset to know from reliable sources and alarming media reports that the camel population is declining at a worrying rate. According to available data there were about 6 lac camels few years ago which has come down to around 2.5 lacs now. At this rate they would, in five years time from now, be an endangered species with about 5000 only left, mostly in zoos and owned by the rich. This is a scary situation. A sort of silent holocaust of camels is on at the moment. Where have all our camels gone?
Camel is a unique animal that can survive in very high temperatures and most inhospitable climes and has very low maintenance cost. In many remote inhospitable sandy terrains it is still the most reliable means of transport and lives up to its name of being the “Desert Ship”. There are villages where Indian Postal services use camels to deliver letters. Camels are also used for transporting food and carrying ballot boxes during elections.
Years ago someone presented me a painting on camel skin. It is also common knowledge that the camel bone is used for making various kinds of so called handicraft items. There have been instances of people passing off camel bone products as ivory.
I am told that the Rajasthan Assembly have rules regarding killing of camels but I wonder if this is being followed. Or else, how do you explain the alarming decline in camel population. Are we waiting for the camel population to come down at par with those of the tigers before we begin to think of banning camel skin and bone products. Why don't we wake up now to save the pride of the desert.
According to an excellent article by animal activist Maneka Gandhi, with petrol and diesel prices moving up, a large number or people in the desert region have actually gone back to buying camels for using them for transport purposes. In the past decade the camel population has declined to one fourth.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – one of the largest and oldest global environment organisations – have put camels on its Red List of threatened species. When will India see the facts?
ess bee

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