Camel is precious animal genetic resource of dry lands and harsh ecosystems of the globe. The camel is highly adapted to the difficult and hostile environment of its habitat. It also produces precious products, especially milk in a very low or even zero input production system. Such ecosystems and low input production model are highly hostile for other domestic animals and difficult for survival, especially the exotic breeds.
Camel has a unique physiology enabling it to survive in such hostile conditions. Feed and water scarcity is the salient feature of the regional ecosystems, minimizing our choices for other livestock production. Such conditions enforce us to work on camel and transform it in a good farm machine rather a beast of burden. We have rare opportunities and camel is the best choice to use as a tool to beat food security challenge in the climate change scenario.
The production traits are highly variable, especially milk production which ranges from 4 to 40 kg/day. The camel products – especially the milk – are unique and of high quality. The camel milk is now well accepted for its worth at international levels. Many efforts are underway to promote camel milk. Camel dairying is getting popularity and its products are highly demanded for health and wellbeing.
More than 90% of the camel in the region are kept and reared by the pastoral communities. The production system is based on open grazing and mobile herding. Pastoral peoples and other camel keepers carry the entire burden of preserving the camel for the future. They face severe difficulties due to climate change, feed and water scarcity, restriction to grazing lands, faulty livestock policies and other man made consequences. The number of camels is declining and camel breeds are at risk for extinction, especially in this region. Scientific work on camel is often not connected to and relevant for the camel keepers.
However, every cloud has a silver lining. The regional (Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan) camel community (scientists, breeders and policy makers) can work for joint projects. Camel association can be organized at national levels in each countr and can fabricate a regional cooperation for camel development. Camel friends need to work together and share ideas and support each other. The message about the diversity and capacity of the camel can then reach the policy makers.
As a first attempt a review committee to review camel productions and possibilities for future development is urgent and requires pooling of available data on camel in a systematic and uniform manner. Such committee can work on the compilation of the work done already and can give idea for future research and development on camel.
Key words: future, global, joint, policy, review, camel
Camel is a multipurpose animal (Hjort af Ornas and Hussain, 1993), able to produce milk, meat, wool/hair and hides, to be used for riding, agricultural activities, packing and carting, racing and many cultural events. The camel is the most versatile for the human population, especially those living in arid lands (table. 1).
Table. 1. Multipurpose attributes of camel
Type ofAnimal Produce
Draught Wool/Hair Milk Meat Fat
Camel + + + + +
Horse + _ _ _ _
Sheep _ + + + +
Goat _ + + + _
Cattle + _ + + _
Donkey + _ _ _ _
Yak + + + + _
Browsing habits of camel (bushes, shrubs and trees) make it a tool for food security in the climate change scenario, as climate change affects appear in the erosion of forbs and grasses. Camel is highly adapted to the harsh and hostile ecosystems of its habitats. It has a unique physiology enabling it to cope with the dry lands environment.
The camel is well adapted to extreme temperature conditions and osmotic fluctuations. Camel adaptation to dehydration is the consequence of its anatomic and physiologic particularities (Bengoumi and Faye, 2002). It has been shown, that dromedary camel kidney function is one of the most important factors of its ability to adapt to extreme conditions of osmotic stress and additional water needs as during milking periods (Yagil, 1993, Bengoumi et al, 1993).
Camel judiciously use water and increase water contents in its milk during water scarcity to offer sufficient water to its calf. Camel also retakes water from urine and ceases sweating when water is not available. The ability of camel to allow its body temperature to fluctuate in response to some form of environmental stress, results in saving significant amounts of energy and water.
The camel and food security challenge
Camel is well in position to beat the challenge of food security in the climate change context. Camel produces milk and meat for human consumption. Camel meat is praised for its good quality, especially if it is derived from the calf. The major meat contents i.e. moisture, protein, fat and ash are reported as 71, 21.4, 4.4 and 1.1% respectively (Kadim and Mahgoub, 2006). Camels are good potential meat producers especially in arid regions where other meat-producing animals do not thrive. Camel meat, especially from young animals, contains low fat with low cholesterol as well as being a good source of amino acids and minerals.
Many factors drive the slaughtering rate of camel. Though camel meat is preferred in some countries, but not often slaughtered due to high prices and slow herd growth rate. Camel is mainly slaughtered on special occasions, like festival, wedding, mourning, physical damage of the animal, for preying and arrival of guests (Mehari et al, 2007). But in recent times, the camel meat is attract many people in Middle East and number of camel slaughtering is increasing. Such trent resulting in camel decline in horn of Africa and Sub-continent.
Camel milk is the major and special product for human consumption. Camel was originally domesticated for milk following the move to use as a beast of burden especially for armies. (Raziq et al, 2008). Camel is no more the animal of the old world, but an animal which may be used to combat the growing desertification and to feed millions of people living in those areas. The camel produces in harsh and hostile conditions where other animal may not survive. A camel can provide 15-20 liters of milk per day for a lactation period of up to 18 months, making it a very good farm animal. Studies conducted in the horn of Africa revealed that the camel produced more milk than the other types of tropical animals compared on the basis of kg/TLU/year (Schwartz and Dioli, 1992).
Globally camel produces about 2 % of the world total milk and that milk is mostly produced by pastoral people and consumed locally (Raziq et al, 2008). The camel sustain its productivity in difficult conditions and comparatively lesser affected by the adverse factors like lack of feed, water, season and length of lactation (Raziq et al, 2011).
Production, pastoralism and conservation
Camel production is still switch to nomadic and semi nomadic people. Camel plays role as tool of survival in arid and semi-arid lands of the earth. Camel is crucial for the livelihood earning of such communities and ensure their food security. As a consequence of the climate change and drought some cattle pastoralists substituted cattle with camel to ensure existence in the drought conditions. A new phenomenon of camel dairying is getting popularity and increases, though the growth is not appealing yet. The efforts of last decade like that in Mauritania (Tvisky), Kenya, India and Dubai are now following by the newly camel dairying, especially in Middle East.
Pastoralism safeguards conservation and development (evolution) of camel genetic resources in the world. The pastoral people developed and evolved specialized breeds of livestock for food and agriculture and camel is the one among them. Camel herders evolved the present days breed with the continuous selection for fitness and survival traits with the help of their indigenous knowledge in the long run of history. Such efforts resulted in the well adapted genetic resources for food and agriculture, which can survive in harsh and hostile conditions (Köhler-Rollefson, 2005). Hence efforts for conservation and sustainable use of camel, the role of pastoral people cannot be neglected.
Camel can be the solution for many difficult questions, i.e. climate change, drought and food security, especially for the region like ours. Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan are under the severe threat of many challenges like water and feed scarcity, climate calamities, deforestation etc. In such conditions, the importance of well adapted livestock species like camel increases manifolds. Unfortunately camel erosion is a challenge in the region. There are many reasons of this decline, all are manmade. Camel is being neglected in research and development sectors of the region and no integrated efforts had been made to address camel issues. The camel conference of Mashhad can be a mile stone for a regional cooperation and development of camel R&D in the region. As a beginning, universities, research institutions and breeders communities can initiate camel cooperation which can be proceed at ministries levels in the days coming.
A committee of scientists can be organized here at the end of the conference to make a comprehensive report on the present situation of camel in the region, i.e. population, breeds, trends, communities, utilities etc and also to review the research work already performed and published. The committee will point out the gaps in the research area and will suggest research work to the universities and institutions. The committee can collaborate with the international camelid organization, especially ISOCARD to ease its work and broaden the horizon of camel research and development.
We have announced an international camel conference in Pakistan next year under the patronage of the camel association of Pakistan (CAP). The committee may have a meeting at such occasion and can discuss its progress and future plans.
Camel can be a tool to combat desertification and to fight the calamities of climate change. Camel ensures food security in the arid ecosystems of our region. Unfortunately, camel is under threat and still neglected among the R & D sector of our national governments. A regional cooperation and coordination can be a silver lining in the cloud. Cooperation among the universities, camel herders, pastoralists and other stake holders can bring cool breeze in the camel world of the region.
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