Sunday, August 15, 2010

Wild Bactrian camel news -Disaster puts question marks on survival of double hump camels

Disaster puts question marks on survival of double hump camels
Kalyan Ray, New Delhi, Aug 15, DHNS:
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Even as Leh is limping back to normalcy from the impacts of flash floods, the anxiety level is increasing for a group of scientists with every passing day. There is no information on India’s last 150-odd double hump camels living in the Nubra Valley.

With the road connections between the Nubra Valley and Leh washed away, they are unable to reach the villagers who domesticate these endangered animals. The extent of damage in the Nubra Valley, known for these camels and sand dunes at an altitude of about 12,000 ft is also unknown. If they are wiped out, it would be a big blow to Indian biodiversity.“We just don’t know whether they have survived or perished. We are hoping for the survival of at least some of them so that we can start our conservation programme,” K M L Pathak, deputy director general in charge of animal sciences at the Indian Council of Agriculture Research, told Deccan Herald. Before flood struck the cold desert, scientists were fine-tuning a programme to conserve the bactrian camels—double humped ones—which are also found in the Gobi desert region in China and Mongolia, where they are endangered.To bring back these animals from the verge of extinction, ICAR roped in defence research and development organisation and Sher-e-Kashmir University for a breeding project that was to begin after the winter. “The flood has altered our plans completely. Now, we don’t know when we can start it,” said Pathak, a former director of National Research Centre on Camel in Bikaner that will play a key role in the project.With the focus still firmly on the rescue missions for human, the people involved in relief and rescue operations have little time for these animals. In the last seven days, IAF helicopters are rescuing people stuck at various points in the Zanskar valley and outskirts of Leh. With many local and foreigners still stranded, there is little hope for the scientists to reach the Nubra region till the road link is restored. Gestation periodCarrying a breeding programme for an animal that breeds only once in a year, at 12,000 ft altitude is a big challenge. Double-hump camels have a gestation period of 13 months and always produce single offspring.Even though conservation programmes are underway in China and Mongolia, ICAR have barely any information from those projects. The NRC-C researchers first generated data on physiological parameters and nutritional need for the bactrian camels. Subsequently, Sher-e-Kashmir University and DRDO were roped in for using their facilities at Srinagar and Leh respectively.Once the structure is in place, ICAR started its Rs 40 lakh breeding programme to save the double-hump camels from extinction, Pathak said.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Milk from a Bactrican wild camel is tasty and can help diabetics

The milk from a camel is tasty and can help diabetics
A Sunday Telegraph reader shares his views on camel milk.

A Mongolian family and two Bactrian camels stand on grasslands in the Gobi, Mongolia, 1961 Photo: Corbis
SIR – While the wild Bactrian camel in China and Mongolia is much too timid and critically endangered to be milked, its domestic double-humped Bactrian cousin and the Dromedary camel (report, July 11) both provide milk that is much more than just palatable.
Camel milk is known to arrest, though not cure, diabetes, and, by drinking a litre of camel milk a day, some diabetics have been able to give up insulin.

In addition, the late Jasper Evans, who owned the Ol Maisor ranch in Kenya and 250 camels, invented a wonderfully potent drink called Maisor Mist. This is made from camel’s milk, sweetened condensed milk and brandy in more or less equal quantities.
This not only vastly improved inter-tribal relationships in Kenya, but it also induced a very sound sleep.
John HareWild Camel Protection FoundationBenenden, Kent

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Camel crisis - More about the endangered wild Bactrian Camels

Camel crisis

Modernity, urbanization, motorisation are slowly destroying way of life that has survived for thousands of years.

By Ed Emery

The camel has long had a special place in the imagination of the West, from the Greek historian Herodotus telling a story about Indians using fast-running camels to defeat dog-sized, man-eating ants that guarded gold, through the Three Magi journeying to Christ’s birth, Lawrence of Arabia and the desert chic of Camel cigarettes.

At school you probably learned that the dromedary (shaped like a D) has one hump, and the bactrian (shaped like a B) has two (all very orderly). But perhaps you don’t know that in the first week of their foetal life, all baby camels have two humps. Or that the world’s camel cultures are in crisis. Some camels are threatened with extinction. Others are being slaughtered as pests. Modernity, urbanisation and motorisation are slowly destroying a way of life that has survived for thousands of years.

I recently asked a colleague at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Stefan Sperl, to describe the place of the camel in the Arab imaginative landscape. He said that pre-700 AD, pastoral Bedouin poetry (still highly esteemed in the Arabic and Islamic literary canon) expressed a deep emotional bond between poet and camel. Camel journeys in this poetry have philosophical meanings about the journey through life to death -- naturally so, because in the harsh desert the camel is integral to family and community life.

But now camels are being viewed as vermin. Last November, under the headline “Town under siege: 6,000 camels to be shot”, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that trains of camels had invaded the town of Docker, breaking into houses and rooting up water pipes. During Australia’s worst drought on record, the camels were desperately seeking water. They were once a cultural oddity (camels were imported in the 1840s to help open up the interior, and then left to run wild) but have become a public menace. The local government response was to mobilise helicopters to drive them into the desert, where they would be shot and left to rot. Representatives of the cattle industry favour the cull, arguing that camels compete with cattle for sparse grazing. Environmentalists argue for a more humane and productive approach, such as developing an Australian camel industry on a par with that of cattle.

Sold for meat

Drought is the key, as it is to another location of the camel crisis. In 2009 two researchers, Ilse Köhler-Rollefson and Hanwant Singh Rathore, embarked on a yatra (pilgrimage) by camel caravan to document the crisis in Rajasthan’s prime camel breeding areas. A diary entry summarised the problem: “Yesterday we found that another 2,000 camels had been sold for slaughter at a market near here. Selling camels for meat used to be unknown in Rajasthan: The animals were far too valuable. The males were used to haul carts, and the females for breeding. But the decline in the amount of grazing land -- lots of new crop fields irrigated by tubewells around here -- means that it’s no longer possible to keep big herds of females. The problem is that irrigated cropping isn’t sustainable: the groundwater level falls, and the fields are left dry.”

Rajasthan boasts a major camel fair, a popular tourist attraction, held annually around the town of Pushkar. Camels are traded in their thousands. However, the fair is now threatened with decline: India’s camel population has fallen by more than half since the mid-1990s (it was just over 600,000 in 2005). With modernisation, road building and the growth of a car economy, camels are being replaced by trucks and vehicles. Conversion of forests and grasslands to other uses, plus damage by climate change, makes it difficult for herders to feed their camels. This is exacerbated by a recent ban on grazing in national parks. A quarter of a million people are thought to depend for their living on the region’s camel trade. So campaigners are now calling for national and international support for the camel culture.

The English explorer and conservationist John Hare made four trips in the late 1990s into China’s Lop Nor region, into pristine desert where he was able to study firsthand the dangers threatening the genetically distinct wild Bactrian camel. There are only 450 of them left in Mongolia and fewer than 600 in northwest China, and all are under threat. In Mongolia this is partly because of gold and iron-ore mining -- illegal “cowboy” mining and the operations of multinationals such as Rio Tinto. In China it is the result of the illegal activities of “ninja” gold miners (polluting freshwater river resources with deadly potassium cyanide used for leaching gold from rock). In Mongolia, the bactrians were seen as competition for livestock grazing resources, and so farmers shot them.

This May, Hare’s Wild Camel Protection Foundation made an emergency statement that in Mongolia’s Great Gobi nature reserve illegal mining pressures are “extremely serious and out of control”; this terrain is the natural habitat of the wild bactrian, a species now on the critically endangered list and subject of an intensive conservation programme sponsored by the Zoological Society of London.

But the threat is not only to the wild bactrians. The entire nomadic and camel culture of Mongolia is under threat, as encapsulated in three headline events this year. Mongolia had a traumatic climate event – a period of intense cold, after a summer drought known locally as dzud. Nomadic herders lost more than 4.5 million animals by the end of March. On 31 March, Rio Tinto Ltd and the Ivanhoe corporation finalised a deal with the Mongolian government to begin the world’s largest gold and copper mining operation at Oyu Tolgoi (Turquoise Mountain). That day, after a 10,000-strong demonstration, a group of Mongolians went on hunger strike outside the parliament building in Ulan Bator. They were demanding a greater share of the gold-mining output be dedicated to the good of the Mongolian people.

There are other questions of resource allocation, including water resources. A map produced by Rio Tinto shows that the company plans to sink boreholes into a deep-running aquifer and suck out water to feed its gold mining. Wary of public relations disasters, the website claims that this aquifer is divided from the surface water (needed by nomadic herders) by a thick layer of clay. The implication is that water extraction will have no effect on local farming. But there has been that drought -- so view Rio Tinto’s promo video of its gold processing plant and set it beside newspaper pictures of animals dying from thirst and lack of grazing. There are issues of corporate moral accountability in sucking out water for gold processing that could better be used to support the livestock of local herders.

With global warming now an established reality, the world’s deserts are advancing. Land previously viable for cattle becomes nonviable scrubland in which only camels can survive. But this has a positive side: Dr Khalid El Bahrawy of Egypt’s Desert Research Centre (DRC) believes camels can be at the cutting edge of projects of sustainable agriculture and land reclamation in times of ecological crisis because they can be farmed in those dryland areas.

Water is life

In Mali, in Africa’s northwest, desert life is harsh. The Malian group Tinariwen (“deserts” in the local Tamazheq language) have brought their “desert blues” to world public attention at the Festival in the Desert held each year near Timbuctoo. This is no mere romantic exercise. Their music makes radical claims for camel-based nomadic Tuareg culture and the right to rebellion. With the money they earn from touring, Tinariwen funds research and community activism in Mali to address access to water resources for desert peoples. The group’s latest album Aman Iman translates as “water is life,” and the video that accompanies it speaks eloquently of the problem.

The camel is a wonder of productivity -- alive or dead it provides useful products and services -- meat, milk, skin, hair, dung, bone. Camel researchers and environmentalists are especially interested in dairy production. In Somalia the organisation VETAID, together with Tierärtze ohne Grenzen (Vets without Borders), has been working to find simple ways of establishing a viable camel dairy industry to benefit both the health and the livelihoods of herder populations. In Europe, farmers in Germany and Holland have taken up the challenge of camels to provide milk to North African immigrant communities.

So what is the future? In a recent letter to fellow researchers, Dr Raziq Kakar of the Camel Association of Pakistan (CAP) argued that international food and agriculture organisations have not done enough to analyse what camel cultures really face. Since numbers are falling with alarming speed it is crucial to mobilise for the conservation of these cultures. Unfortunately, camel scientists usually concentrate on veterinary related issues, while breeds, conservation, cultural and socio-economic problems, production and marketing are generally not prioritised. Climate change makes camels a critical and integral part of sustainable development policies. The first step is to identify breeds and practices in communities, and construct comprehensive databases. Kakar says the CAP has joined forces with herders in Pakistan, so that their real concerns can be identified, and so that they can be centrally involved in policy making.

Ed Emery is organiser of Universitas adversitatis, a web-based free university, and co-organiser of the 2011 Camel Conference at SOAS.

© 2010 Le Monde diplomatique – distributed by Agence Global

Monday, April 12, 2010

China makes progress in artificial propagation of Bactrian camels

China makes progress in artificial propagation of Bactrian camels 2010-04-12 14:12:56 FeedbackPrintRSS

HOHHOT, April 12 (Xinhua) -- Chinese scientists announced they have made progress in artificial propagation of Bactrian camels.

Zhang Li, a researcher with the livestock improvement station in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, said they have succeeded in making the female Bactrian camel to produce three to five ova, instead of only one in normal circumstances, during the period a female Bactrian camel is in heat.

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Bactrian camels on the increase at Lop Nor

Bactrian camel runs at the Lop Nur Bactrian Camel Nature Reserve in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Feb. 19, 2010. The number of Bactrian Camels in the Lop Nur has increased due to protection in these years. (Xinhua/Wang Yongji)

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bactrian camel-baby-born-at-Saint-Louis-Zoo

Friday, March 12, 2010

Baby male camel has been born at Knowsley Safari Park

Baby male camel born at Knowsley Safari park

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

UNICEF: Severe winter ‘dzud’ pushes most of Mongolia to disaster status

UNICEF: Severe winter ‘dzud’ pushes most of Mongolia to disaster status

UNICEF intensifies efforts to reach children in the hardest hit rural areas

ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA 12 February 2010 – In response to weeks of freezing temperatures and heavy snows have left more than half of Mongolia’s 21 provinces in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, UNICEF has mobilized to help children and families, addressing their most urgent humanitarian concerns, including food, fuel for heating and cooking, blankets, and warm clothing.

The Government of Mongolia has declared disaster status in 12 provinces, with a further seven provinces predicted to move to disaster status shortly as temperatures continue to hover around -40 Celsius and further heavy snow is expected.

The children’s agency is working close collaboration with other UN agencies, including UNFPA, FAO and UNDP, with the Government of Mongolia and major NGOs, to gear up a significant humanitarian response and coordinated the response to the challenges of this unfolding emergency.

These winter conditions, known locally as a dzud, are likely to continue beyond April, and the severity of the coming months will determine the unfolding extent of the humanitarian and food security efforts needed.

While the people of Mongolia are used to cold winter conditions, it is the combination of a severe summer drought, where little fodder was generated, and severely cold temperatures that harden heavy snow which have crippled the rural population largely reliant on herding and agriculture.

So far, the dzud has killed more than two million livestock, devastated the livelihoods of families in the agriculture sector, which employs 35 – 40 per cent of the population, and isolated herders and villages from accessing food, fuel and medical care.

In the previous dzud of 2001, not considered as severe as the current one, Mongolia suffered a deepening of poverty and lowered GDP, raised chronic malnutrition levels, and watched a massive influx of the rural population to the peri-urban areas around the capital city of Ulaanbaatar.

The Government has appealed to the local and international community for urgent support to reach the herders with fodder, fuel, medicines, food and warm clothing.

UNICEF has already responded to a call for support from the Ministry of Education for urgent attention to failing heating systems and limited food supplies in 18 school dormitories where children are housed, facing difficulties to return to their families due to the dangerous travel conditions. A convoy to some of the villages in the worst affected areas will shortly deliver food, fuel, blankets, hygiene kits, and boots to vulnerable poor families.

“This is an unfolding emergency, said Rana Flowers, the UNICEF Representative in Mongolia. “Of most recent and most urgent concern is evidence that babies and young children are dying because they cannot access the medical treatment from trained personnel that they need.”

“The UN is acutely aware of the need to reach increasingly isolated populations with fuel and medicines, to get those in need out to trained medical care and to provide hygiene kits to stem the spread of disease, to ensure safe delivery and newborn care and to prevent the deepening of chronic malnutrition in this country.”

Information from the Ministry of Health received today confirms that 9 young children have died in recent days in one province alone. The figures from other provinces are not yet available.

“Vulnerability to disease is heightened for those children living in dormitories and in poor households in villages where the heating is not working, the fuel is insufficient and where food is in short supply. There are over 22,000 children in 265 dormitories in need of urgent assistance, but this number grows every few days as the severe conditions spread across the rest of the country widening the net cast by the disaster,” Flowers said.

As the severity of winter conditions spread across the country, as many as 492 additional dormitories will need assistance with more than 41,078 children in their care. Over the last few days, the Mongolian National Emergency Management agency (NEMA) has indicated that several villages are facing diminishing supplies of fuel for heating and cooking. In some cases, the villages only have enough fuel for three or four more days.

Even in non-emergency times, access to clean water and adequate sanitation are significant areas of concern for Mongolia. Once a thawing begins in the spring, the impact of dead animals and generally poor sanitation practices are predicted to result in a further spread of disease.

UNICEF says it faces a critical need for an additional USD 400,000 for medical supplies, equipment, micronutrients, and hygiene interventions as well as $322,000 to reach the growing number of affected communities with other life saving interventions.

As Mongolia moves into the spring, food security concerns will increase and the response will need to be well coordinated. In addition to the ongoing humanitarian efforts, child protection and psychosocial support will also be needed as families struggle with the overwhelming emotional and psychological impact of their losses and to handle difficult migration to burgeoning peri-urban areas where access to water and sanitation and basic social services will be severely limited.

For further information, please contact:
Bolor Purevdorj, Communication Specialist, ;
Tel + 976 11 312 183; / + 976 11 312 185

Mongolia faces hunger crisis video

Nomad Green: Mongolia - A Disaster In The Making

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Mongolia faces hunger crisis video on Youtube

As severe winter spreads death and shortages in Mongolia, UN appeals for funds

As severe winter spreads death and shortages in Mongolia, UN appeals for funds

A herder milks yaks in Must, Khovd Province, Mongolia (file)

12 February 2010 – With weeks of freezing temperatures and heavy snows leaving more than half of Mongolia’s 21 provinces in urgent need of aid, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today appealed for nearly $750,000 to face a crisis that is already seeing youngsters die and threatens scores of thousands more.
“The UN is acutely aware of the need to reach increasingly isolated populations with fuel and medicines, to get those in need out to trained medical care and to provide hygiene kits to stem the spread of disease, to ensure safe delivery and newborn care and to prevent the deepening of chronic malnutrition,” UNICEF country representative Rana Flowers said.

“This is an unfolding emergency. Of most recent and most urgent concern is evidence that babies and young children are dying because they cannot access the medical treatment from trained personnel that they need,” she added, noting that nine children had died in recent days in just one province according to the Health Ministry.

Over 22,000 children in 265 dormitories are in need of urgent aid due to insufficient food and fuel for heating and cooking, and nearly 500 other dormitories with more than 41,000 youngsters will need assistance as severe conditions spread across the vast country of some 3 million people. Some villages only have enough fuel for three or four more days.

UNICEF, which is working with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to gear up a significant and coordinated response, faces a “critical need” for an additional $400,000 for medical supplies, equipment, micronutrients and hygiene kits, and $322,000 to reach a growing number of affected communities with life-saving interventions.

The winter conditions, known as a dzud with temperatures plunging as low as -50 degrees Celsius and now hovering around -40, are likely to continue beyond April. The Government has already declared disaster status in 12 provinces with a further seven predicted to follow as further heavy snow is expected.

While Mongolians are used to cold winters, current conditions have been compounded by a severe summer drought, when little fodder was generated, killing more than 2 million livestock in a country where 35 to 40 per cent of the population rely on herding and agriculture

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Extreme cold triggers livestock disaster in Mongolia – UN