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Swimming camels

Growing up in western Rajasthan, camels were a common sight. I would at times, see their caravan walking over a flyover in my city, with their herders. These are the one-humped camels, found in Rajasthan and some parts of Gujarat and Haryana. Later on, when I shifted to Kachchh in Gujarat, I was amazed to learn that there were camels that could swim. I thought maybe that’s why they are called the ‘ship’ of the desert. However, these are the ‘Kharai’ camels, a unique breed found only in Kachchh, and not the ones I knew from Rajasthan. Their webbed feet reminded me of a frog’s and their mouth looked like they were always smiling.

Mangrove diets

Kharai camels are known to feed on mangroves on the island off shore. And to eat this salty marine food, they sometimes swim for hours. I found that their population was under threat. The mangrove forests they fed on were being destroyed. On my way to one village, I saw camel herders protesting on a salt pan. They told me that that area was used for grazing and as a passage for their camels to the mangrove forests. But now, salt manufacturing factories had destroyed their food, and blocked the passage by developing the salt pans. This has been happening for many years now. Sometimes, it is a cement factory, at other times a salt pan — obstructing the path. If these animals do not eat the mangrove vegetation for a long period of time, they get sick and eventually die. The camel population has reduced drastically.

Last year, the court ordered the factories to open up the route for camels and make access to mangroves possible. I was happy and to celebrate I bought myself a camel milk chocolate. Did you know Amul makes camel milk chocolate? This is an initiative to support camel herders.

Conservation and Nature is a series brought to you by Kalpavriksh Environmental Action Group (

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2020 11:29:45 PM |

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