Camels of Rajasthan.
In Rajasthan, camels are as commonplace as cars. They can be seen pulling huge loads, ploughing fields and being used for transport to traverse desert terrains. There are also feral camels that one can see foraging in thorny bushes as one drives by on the highways.
As ungainly as the camel may be, with its wobbly legs and arrogant expression, it still does not fail to impress people. Most people would have seen a camel in a zoo but to see it walking nonchalantly down the road, looking proud even if it is attached to a cart, is a sight to behold.
Despite the high visibility of camels in India, the camel population is infact dwindling. The crisis has been caused by several reasons but mostly because grazing areas have shrunk and roadways and vehicles have reduced the need for camels. This rendered the Raikas, who are the traditional herders, jobless and in distress. Fortunately, the government of Rajasthan took notice of this and began taking corrective action. Slowly but surely, things are beginning to change.
A most impressive project in this area is the National Research Centre on Camel at Bikaner in Rajasthan. The centre studies camels with the aim of improving their genes, survivability, reproduction amongst other things.
The wonderful thing is that this centre is open to tourists and it is totally worth the visit. If you get there around 3pm you will see the wonderful sight of hundreds of camels coming back from their free time in desert. Lots of fascinating information is available there about the four different kinds of Rajasthani camel breeds that live there (Bikaneri, Jaisalmeri, Kachchhi and Mewari).
While I was there last year many young ones had been recently born. You can see in the picture that they are just lying around, exhausted from the journey out of the womb.
We even had the chance to bottle-feed one of them!
There is a small shop here that sells products made from camel hair and camel leather. But the really fun (and experimental) part was the camel milk parlour at the entrance. Camel milk evidently has health benefits especially for diabetes and autism. It is not easily available and there is little demand for it. But it is being promoted in a small way.
(Camel Milk, photo credit www.icar.com)
With great curiosity and trepidation, we tried the camel milk ice cream. It was, let’s sayyy, a taste that could be acquired, if one really wanted to acquire it. But seriously, it is worth trying. The very healthy dog with the shiny coat who was sitting cooperatively close-by obviously had his happy role cut out. He certainly obliged and helped me finish my camel milk kulfi!