Strange Animal with Special Traits ~ My Camel

Camel is integral part of the deserted ecosystems and blessed with special traits/characteristics which give strange potential to this unique animal. In Quran camel is called as strange animal. Here are some strange potential of camels in the ensuing lines.

Protected from Sand

The wide, flat, sponge like cushioned and hoof-less feet can walk across the sand without sinking in.
The long double layered eyelashes protect its eyes from blowing sand and dust. The tear glands continually rinse the eye surface and a thin translucent inner eyelid can be closed to protect their eyes while allowing them to see even in the sand storm.
They can close off their nostrils completely in addition to the thick hairs in the nostrils that help filter the air. Their small ears are also covered with hair inside and out to filter blowing sand and dust.

camel for blog

Desert Ecosystem is Hot and Camel is Heat Protected

The narrow body presents a small surface area for the sun to hit when directly exposed. Camel also incline to turn into the sun when they sit so as to present the smallest possible surface area to the sun. Also camels need little feed and usually avoid eating during the hottest times so as not to generate heat, instead they rest. Camels will sit together in groups in the hotter time of the day when their body’s temperature is lower than that of the air, thus insulating them from the heat. Heavy coarse hair insulates the camel’s back from the heat of the sun. Thin skin on the belly with blood vessels close to the surface help cool the animal.
The strange body feature of camel enable to cope with extreme changes in body temperature. Camels are an average of 2 meters tall at the shoulder and their long legs keep the body away from the heat of the sand. Fifth pad (Chest Pad) and Knees Pad (leathery callus-like pads) grow on the chest and knees of the camel empower him to sit on hot desert sand without direct connection of the skin. The urine splatters the rear legs when it falls also cooling the creature.

Camel Withstands Dehydration

Camels store water for days or weeks and their system is so efficient that the dung is almost completely dry and the urine a thick concentrate. In the cool season a camel can go for two months without drinking; in the hot season they need to drink every week. The thick hair also prevents evaporation of sweat. They can survive dehydration of up to 25 to 30 % of their body’s weight (most mammals will die at 12-15% loss) When thirsty a camel can consume 100 liters (~25 gallons) in 10 minutes.

The fatty tissue of their hump is also a great energy reserve which permits them to do the long arduous treks across desert areas and the bye-product of fat utilization in energy is water. Fats are more water than water.


A Blend of Indigenous Knowledge and Native Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture Ensure Food Security

I am Raziq belong to the remote and the poorly infra-structured area of Pakistan named as the Balochistan province. I completed my PhD dissertation on the local livestock especially camel and pastoralism. I worked in the north-eastern part of Balochsitan known as the Suleiman Mountainous Region. Actually two areas of the north-eastern Balochsitan i.e. Suleiman region and the Kakar Khurasan are the cradle of the livestock breeds and rich in organic agriculture. The people of the area rarely use synthetic means to cure their animals and to increase the fertility of the lands.

I would like and wish to write in detail about the practices the local farmers use to produce organic food and to explain their efforts to save the friendly environment, which might not be possible in one email. I would like to write on each topic in detail on by one. Please find below a brief of my study on organic practices by the pastorals in Suleiman mountainous region in Pakistan.

What the pastorals do?

In Suleiman mountainous region, about 96% of the pastoral people of the region depends on the organic farming, out of which 97% follow seasonal migration along with their livestock with or with out their families. All the flood irrigated agriculture is practice without using chemical fertilizer and pesticides. Only the tall local variety of wheat is used for the flood irrigating agricultural fields. Majority of the farmers follow their indigenous star calendar for the crop cultivation and animal breeding program. About 83% of the pastoral people believed that indigenous knowledge is more reliable, easy applicable and cheaper than western style of medication. The pastoral people preferred to use their own animal based products like Ghurree (butter oil), butter, Shlombey (whey), Kurht (dried cheese) and Lanthi meat rather than the products available in the market for the same purpose. The region is very famous for organic agriculture and livestock production in pastoral system, since centuries. They use flood water for irrigation of their Bandat (small dams or plats). The flood water is rich source of organic manure composed of soft mud, animal dung and foliage. They fill their Bandat in Wassa (monsoon or wet season) many times, to further increase soil fertility and the soil humidity shelf life. At the end of the Wassa (October) crop fields are ploughed mostly by bullocks and asses but the large farmers use tractors for this purpose.pastoral livestock

The current higher fuel prices and the continuous land distribution between the increasing numbers of families once again increase the use of working animal for ploughing. No flood water is applied after sowing of the crops and only natural precipitation provides humidity. The crop of wheat is harvest in the month of June, and if the early monsoon starts the Bandat are again filled and the pulses or grains crop like sorghum, millet and maize is cultivated. These all crops are used by the farmers themselves and very small portion are spare for sale. In many cases they offer the surplus grains to their animals in rainy days. Only the large farmers have excess crop than their use. The lands are use mostly for one crop annually and therefore, sustain their fertility.

The local varieties of crops are used which are already resistant to diseases. The farmer of the area uses the tall varieties of the wheat, which are disease and drought resistant. The variety also insect resistant and wild bird like sparrow cannot eat its grains in milky stage. The tall variety of wheat also produces more straw for their animals than the dwarf hybrid verities. The straw is offered to the animals especially cattle in the dry and scarce period.

Majority of the pastoral people (96%) depends upon the organic agriculture and livestock production. The pastoral people exercise a regular system of migration. Aujla and Jasra, (1996) also reported that the pastoral communities throughout Balochistan fallow a regular pattern of migration depending upon various factors. About 97% of the pastoral people follow seasonal migration along with their livestock with or with out their families. They transport their families and luggage on the back of camels, asses and sometime bullocks are also used for this purpose. The pastoral people have two types of settlements in a year depending upon the vegetation, water availability and season. Their movement originates from the winter settlement (Mena) after the wheat harvest and move upward in the high mountains to summer or wet season settlement (Gholie). They use the vegetation of the highlands and the pleasant and cool weather. The spent wet season there, graze the fresh and succulent vegetation. The well drained topography during the wet season of monsoon result in the lower risk of disease outbreak especially the foot and mouth disease. Some herbal plants found on the highlands like Artimisia, Ephedra and others are well praised for their health friendly characteristics. The farmers believe that offering these herbal plants once in summer keep the animals away from diseases round the year.

Then the pastoral people come down in the autumn after harvesting the vegetation of the high Alps to keep their animals in comparatively warmer and favorable environment. The winter grazing area is strictly banned for grazing in summer and wet season and such a system is known as Pargorr locally. The animals graze on comparative low lands in winter near the crop fields and Piedmont.

Star Calendar and Indigenous Knowledge

The farmers strictly follow the star calendar Permani for sowing and cultivation of the crops. This system is the part of their centuries old indigenous knowledge. The same calendar is used for the animal breeding, movement, housing management and all other livestock related activities. By the grace of this system the farmers save their livestock and agriculture from the heavy use of medicine and pesticides. About 83% of the pastoral people believed that indigenous knowledge is more reliable, easy applicable and cheap than western style of medication. Their mode of life, production system and pastoral way of life make their life easy, near to nature and health friendly.

Food preference and behavior 

The pastoral people preferred to use their own products mainly based on organic agriculture, rather than the products available in the market. They use wheat, maize, sorghum, millet and pulses from agriculture origin. The animal products like Ghurree (butter oil), butter, and Lamm (fats of the fat tailed seep), Shlombey (whey), Kurth (dried cheese) and milk are used in the spring and summer seasons. In winter they use Lanthi meat and animal fats to coup with the cold waves of winter season. Lanthi is a dry meat prepared by drying meat under natural temperatures, humidity and circulation of the air, including direct influence of sun rays. The cool and dry air of the region is well suited for this type of preservation. This method is the oldest method of meat preservation. It consists of a gradual dehydration of pieces of meat cut to a specific uniform shape that permits the equal and simultaneous drying of whole batches of meat. Such a meat is prepared from the mutton of sheep, beef of cattle and camel. Camel milk is very much liked by the pastoral people. They know the health friendly characteristics of camel milk and Kohi camel is the best of the area for reasonable milk yield while keeping on ordinary range like conditions (Raziq and Younas, 2006).

Woman Role

Women help in feeding, milking and management of animals at home and taking care of young and sick animals. She also takes part in the crop production and harvesting activities. The women manage all the activities at home like cooking, cleaning and washing and bringing water from outsides. She cares the home and the kids for all necessities (Raziq, 2006, 07).


The study concluded that organic farming still provides safe and secure food to the majority of the people residing in the region, especially the pastoral people. The better health status of the people of the area is due to this precious food which is produced without the deleterious residues of chemicals and pesticides. There is need to save this system as the increasing commercial agriculture and vegetable production is a threat for that system. For more vegetable production, heavy use of pesticide and fertilizers is practiced which results in the adulteration of the food chain. The old and organic system is not only a production system but also the part of the heritage and culture of the area. So there is need to conserve this system, their crop verities and animal breeds according to their own needs and perspectives.

Small-scale Farming Ensures Multi-Dimensional Outcomes

Small-scale livestock production is based on subsistence foundations. Such livestock keepers keep mostly their indigenous livestock breeds, as local breeds are well adapted to the ambient ecosystems (harsh and hostile). Local livestock breeds are resistant to many diseases and pests, like ticks and flies etc. Indigenous livestock breeds (ILB) need very low inputs or even zero inputs for their production and survival. In many cases small-scale livestock keepers are landless farmers. They rely on marginal lands for grazing of their livestock; such lands have no other use. The small holding agriculture farmers are also holding small-scale livestock for food production, agricultural operations and soil fertility.
Small-scale agricultural systems are more resilient to climate change and ensure biodiversity. Their production system is quite sociable and in concord with the biodiversity. In most of the cases, small-scale production is organic in nature and health friendly. Traditional and indigenous cultures may be sources of agricultural knowledge useful for devising sustainable production systems. Small-scale producers therefore have an important role to play in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, especially MDG1.
Food security: Food is the very basic need and its security is the right of every individual on the globe. With a slight improvement this year but still the number of hungry people is around one billion. Food security is one of the major concerns of the present global scenario. Unfortunately most of them are from the developing country. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are far away to achieve, especially MDG1 (eradication of extreme poverty and hunger).
The situation is even more worsening because of much sad state of situations, like land grabbing, factory farming, struggle for gene control and climate change scenario etc. Open market economies, multinational companies struggle to control on gene and political influence of the rich people combine affect the small-scale production systems adversely. Small-scale production systems are the guarantee of safe food for millions of people on one hand and conservation and sustainable use of the biodiversity on the other hand.
Biodiversity: Biodiversity conservation is link to the question of food security. There is very strong link between biodiversity and food security. More diversified the agro-ecosystems (life, soil and landscape etc) more the resilience of the community to climate change. Unfortunately, more than 90of the crop varieties have disappeared from farmers fields and half of the breeds of many domestic animals have been lost. The other flora and fauna, not documented and studied are even not recorded.
Unfortunately, the present high input unsustainable production systems are based on high inputs (pesticides, fossil oil, fertilizers and antibiotics) and promote mono-culture. Such move is resulting in the ever high loss of biodiversity and eliminating SPSS at high level. Because of high demand for animal protein, a short cut solution was adapted to cross the indigenous livestock breeds with the high yielding exotic breeds. Very limited number of breeds/verities within a species were selected for food production resulted in the narrowing the consumption of biodiversity in food chain. Also a high selection intensities within these breeds/verities resulted in further narrowing the gene pole of the biodiversity. The genetic variation, comprised of components between and within breeds/verities, is now under threat because of such intensive selection. The dependency on the genetic resources for food is narrowing, making the food chain even more fragile.
Also, big ideas like dams, highly mechanized mono-culture agricultural production (green revolution) resulted in high level of environmental degradation and biodiversity loss. Such dilemma resulted in minimizing the options sustainable food production.
Conclusion: Small scale production system is very important for food security in the climate change context and conservation of biodiversity. Millions of the people around the world are involved both for production and consumption through this system. Such system is very much resilient to the climate change and droughts. While using very low or neglected quantity of fossil oil, they are mitigating climate change. The system is custodian of the precious biodiversity of agro-ecosystems, rich with biodiversity and in harmony with nature. Unfortunately the forces like, globalization, open market economies, gene control and industrialization/mechanization in agriculture are threatening this system. There is utmost need to characterize, documentize, visualize and prioritize this system both as a food security option and conservation of the biodiversity. Also, it is the need of time to give opportunity to play its role in the future food production systems.
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About the Author
Being the president of the Society of Animal, Vet. and Environmental Scientists (SAVES), I am working on the issues of dry lands and indigenous livestock breeds with respect to climate change scenario. Author had been working with the pastoral people for last 10 years, while characterizing and documenting livestock breeds and indigenous knowledge, especially related to camel. Author had been delivering training to the livestock keepers in remote for vaccination, drenching and other valuable practices. I am the author of the indigenous livestock breeds, livestock production systems of the tribal people and indigenous knowledge in Balochistan province, Cholistan and Thar Desert of the Great Indian Desert. He had been traveling with the Afghan nomads (Kochis) to work and document on indigenous knowledge and livestock breeds/husbandry.
Author organized camel scientists and herder in Pakistan and founded Camel Association of Pakistan. I am PhD in camel science and presented many international research presentations at various occasions.Dr Abdul Raziq had visited many countries and research stations.