Keeping the Ship of the desert afloat

For the city-bred tourists, these larger-than-life animals with their unique physical traits and undulating gait, might appear to be exotic beings. The most decorative ‘item’ offered in their desert holiday package.  But ask any member of the previously nomadic tribes that have now settled down in small hamlets in coastal Kutch, Gujarat, and he will tell you that his camel is an integral part of his regular domestic life, just as cows and buffaloes are for villagers dwelling in other parts of Kutch land. Just as in their case, the animal is the most valuable asset that he and his family own. It is their primary, rather, their only means of livelihood. Therefore, ensuring that the camels, cows and the rest of the cattle population remain healthy and productive, is the key survival mantra for the communities that have lived here for generations. This fact  was noted by the astute Community Relations team of Coastal Gujarat Private Limited (CGPL), the wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Power Company, as soon as the staff members entered the region eight years ago to set up their flagship scheme, the Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) and they have remained focused on it ever since. The recently organized 7th Mega Annual Camel Vaccination camp provides rock solid evidence on how far they have progressed on this path. This initiative is a part of CGPL’s Kanthi Area Livelihood Program (KALP), executed in collaboration with the Animal Husbandry Department, Bhuj. 

Their monumental stature creates an aura of invincibility, but in reality the camels are stalked by a host of diseases, some chronic ailments while others require immediate attention. Here is a sample. Trypanaosomiasis, skin infections, arthritis, gastro-intestinal problems, miscarriage and respiratory infections are the most commonly found rogue bugs among Kutchi camels. The mortality rate is quite high among calves, primarily due to diarrhea, stomach pain and pre mature birth.

But the real issue of concern is not the bugs. It is the lack of capacity of the camel breeders to tackle them. Shockingly, a majority of them do not vaccinate the animals at all, nor do they arrange for any prophylactic measure.

This is where CGPL has stepped in to fill the vacuum. In association with the Animal Husbandry Department of Bhuj, CGPL has been organizing an annual camel vaccination event since 2007. The specific objective of this programme is to take stock of the status of health of the local camel population, provide vaccinations wherever required, and most significantly, share with the local breeder’s information on the latest developments in the world of animal healthcare.

The day takes on a festive look, as breeders arrive with their ‘wards’. They are informed months in advance, ensuring that even the nomadic camel owners don’t miss the V Day. Local leaders, elected members of the Panchayat, and CGPL volunteers actively participate in the event. The key actors, of course, are the five doctors, four livestock managers and nine helpers who make up the medical team from the District Animal Husbandry Department. The rest then pitch in as assistants as they go about checking and vaccinating their patients.

Along with the camel population may the tribe of such dedicated professionals, too, thrive and grow…

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