LPP’s Ilse Köhler-Rollefson and Hanwant Singh Rathore of Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan completed their yatra, or pilgrimage, through Rajasthan’s prime camel-breeding areas with a parade through the city of Bikaner on 13 February. The yatra highlighted how the decline in camel numbers is affecting people, the economy and ecology in this arid Indian state. Here is Ilse’s latest report.
12 February 2005
Yatra arrives in Bikaner
We have arrived in Bikaner, and I am happy to report that all 12 members of our expedition and the five camels (as well as a dog which joined us about 180 km ago) are in fine fettle. We received a very warm welcome by the National Research Centre on Camel and had the first hot showers since the start of the yatra.
India TV covered most of our last day, which was very exhausting because of the extremely heavy traffic that we had to wade through for about 12 km in order to reach the NRCC. However, our camels did not blink an eyelid among throngs of trucks, military vehicles with tanks, and the ugly urban jungle.
It will take some time to get used to normal life again, and we all already miss the silence of the desert and the hospitality of its people. We have seen how far tubewells, tractors and high-yielding crop cultivation have made inroads into the desert, and it is not a pretty picture. Of course, I will be accused of romanticizing, but in the remote areas people seem to be happiest and most hospitable. The famous Thari culture is still alive in many places. It has been a fantastically fulfilling experience, and Hanwant has already said we should do a yatra every year.
Previous pages in Ilse’s diary
More information about the yatra.
Issue 2, February 2005, focuses on camels and pastoralism. News also on Nguni cattle in South Africa, recommendations on smallholder poultry projects, and a project with sheep and goat breeders in India.
The Times of India of 21 January 2005 carried a story on how camels from Rajasthan are being exported to Bangladesh for slaughter. The article quotes evidence from Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan that scores of camels were bought from Pushkar fair by traders from Bangladesh.