Fast and dry: Will India’s swimming camels be the last of their kind? | India

Ayub Amin Jat treats camels like his own children. But then his camels are not uncommon: he is a unique breed of camel that swims.

Amin Jat’s semi-nomadic ancestors have kept these camels in the Indian state of Gujarat for hundreds of years. Known as Kharai camels, their name is derived from the local word Saline, Meaning salty. During the rainy season, they swim along the Gulf of Mexico, along the small islands of the jungle, and graze mangroves and other salty love plants.

Their soft, bold hollows allow them to easily navigate the wet and salty coastal terrain and can swim up to three kilometers (1.8 miles). Immediately after grazing, they drink rainwater that accumulates in the depressed islands. When not enough water is available, shepherds take them to neighboring villages for food.

But brown camels are disappearing. Although exact numbers are hard to find – Kharai camels were only recognized as a separate breed in 2015 – local nonprofits سهجیون It is estimated that there were more than 10,000 in Gujarat almost a decade ago. Now there are less than four and a half thousand. Meteorologists warn that mangroves are rapidly destroying industrial habitat camels in swamps and unusual rains, leading to the extinction of this unique breed.

“My ancestors gave me these camels,” says Amin Jat, 53. How can I see them die before my eyes?

Ayub Amin Jutt
Ayub Amin Jutt’s semi-nomadic ancestors have been swimming camels for hundreds of years. Photo: Romita Saloja

Wealthy and local conservationists point to the activities of many salt companies in the mangrove swamps. Companies make salt pillows by banning seawater from entering mangroves. This dries out the plants and eventually kills them. Sahajion says power plants, ports and other industries are also responsible for the loss of camel habitat.

“These companies build mud walls, which are known locally Share, Around a part of the earth that blocks seawater. Without water, mangroves slowly die, making it easier to dismantle machines, “says Mahendra Bhanani, co-ordinator of the Camel Program in Sahajiwan.” Returned the mangrove cover for more than a kilometer. “

Salt companies argue that they bring development and jobs to an area that is nothing but barren land. “The land allotted to us is salty barren land, on which nothing can grow,” said Bharat Rawal, president of the Indian Salt Manufacturers Association, which represents more than 60 companies. “Some may be non-payers but their number is very small.”

Scientists at GA TheoCare Gujarat Institute of Desert Ecology Some companies that specialize in coastal and marine environments say some companies are deviating from their path to declassifying land. “Until almost two decades ago, industries were rapidly destroying mangroves. In 2011, the government enacted strict laws and made limited development in mangrove areas. But then the companies got a new job. They will stop the sea creek, which As a result, mangroves would die a natural death in about a year, after which the land would be declared a wasteland. [could] Easy to claim by industries, “he says.

The Indian government has taken notice of the fall of the camels and nominated them in 2015 Endangered. “Health camps” were set up for camels, and non-profit organizations were funded to help raise sheep and goats.

Shepherds and their camels graze in the Gulf
Shepherds and their camels cross the Gulf of Aden. Photo: Sahjian

Shepherd in September last year Won a recovery From the National Green Tribunal of India, which resolves environmental disputes. He asked the Gujarat authorities to check any obstruction in the flow of marine skins and restore the mangroves. It also warns against any salt-producing activity in some areas.

But shepherds say they are fighting to save the mangroves. “It’s a constant struggle,” he said. We remove one company, another company comes in a week. “It’s always like hiding and finding.”

According to the Forest Department of India, Mangrove core In fact, Gujarat has increased from 1,140 sq km in 2017 to 1,177 sq km in 2019.

Amin Jat says that camels are not allowed to graze on the lands owned by the department. “Animal pet land is being allotted to companies and the people of the forest department are taking us away from their land,” he said. where do we go?”

Thevakaran says that while trampling on camel plants, he cannot be blamed for the loss of mangrove cover. “These are industries [that are responsible]. Camels and mangroves live together for generations. In addition, camels graze mostly on sparse or reduced mangroves.

Extraordinary rainfall in the region adds to the distress. Some have variable rainfall and have Drought affected About every three years. Due to the amount of salt in the mangroves, camels need to drink water immediately after grazing. Amin Jat says that such low rainfall is a cause of crisis for us. We don’t need big buildings. We only need food and clean water for our animals.

Locals are lobbying hard against the growing industrialization in the nonprofit area, but they are trying to persuade sheep and goats to start selling camel’s milk as a source of income.

Traditionally, the community opposes the idea of ​​selling camel’s milk or wool. According to Amin Jat, a respected spiritual leader once discouraged the practice and advised herdsmen to give supplies to anyone who asked. “But of late, many people have started selling milk to keep their crops,” he said, as he sat in a village hut in Lucknow’s hut as his nephew, Hamir Bhacho Jutt Milk tea is served in steel bowls by cattle.

Locals believe that camel’s milk is good for treating tuberculosis, diabetes and cancer. “Our people do not get any major disease,” says Bhacho Jat. “Milk is medicine. My uncle sometimes goes on an island trip without food for a maximum of five days. ۔

Amin Jat has never had a permanent home. His family usually goes out three times a year in search of their camel pasture. He belongs to the traditionalist class of Fakrani Jats, whose main occupation has traditionally been camel breeding. Wherever they settle, the women of the family build houses made of reed grass, jute rope and wood. pakkhas. They usually carry camel luggage during their travels but occasionally sell it to a camel to keep it for several months.

Animals from the herd of Ayub Amin Jat
Animals from the herd of Ayub Amin Jat Photo: Romita Saloja

But Amin Jat is not optimistic about the future. “If they don’t stop the industries soon, I will send my camels to the slaughter house,” he said.

Bhanani lamented that the extinction of camels would not only harm the environment but also the culture. He said that this would mainly change the lifestyle of the animals of the poor Jats and nomadic communities in the area. Young people are migrating to their families in the cities and looking for jobs to sustain themselves. Interestingly, some companies are employing people who are destroying their camel habitat.

Find out more about extinction coverage, and follow Biodiversity Correspondents Phoebe Weston And Patrick Greenfield For all the latest news and features on Twitter

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