This camel is 'white' but not an albino

This camel is 'white' but not an albino

Born at the National Research Centre on Camel, the calf is India’s first non-albino white camel. “It is an extremely rare happening as the male calf is not an albino. It seems that a recessive character of the gene has been expressed,” said NRCC Director N V Patil.

The scientists scurried through the records to find out whether there were any other white camels in India. They could not find any.

“We checked with the animal husbandry departments of Gujarat and Rajasthan. They have no information on any white camel. There was no white camel in the 27-year history of the NRCC. This is India’s first white camel,” K M L Pathak, Deputy Director General in charge of the animal sciences at the Indian Council of Agriculture Research here told Deccan Herald.

The NRCC now plans to carefully monitor the white camel and will use it in the breeding programme to develop “white” trait in the progeny. A success in the breeding programme would eventually mean white camels dotting the sandy landscape.  “However, the chance of success is only 50 per cent, though we will try,” Patil said.

The researchers would also undertake genetic studies to identify the traits responsible for the skin colour and try to identify its parentage. “Sudan has white camels and we will study if its ancestors came from Sudan,” Pathak said, adding that camels came to India from Africa and Arab and gradually adapted to Indian conditions.

The white camel belongs to the Mewari breed of camels located in the mountainous tracts in the lower foothills of the Aravali ranges in Rajasthan. The Mewari breed is a dwindling breed of camels with just 8,800 of them being there in the Livestock census carried out in 2007.

The Mewari breed is good for milk production with an average production of 7-8 litres per day compared to Jaisalmeri or Bikaneri, which produces on average 5-6 litres of milk per day. In the difficult hilly terrain the strong and sturdy Mewari breed’s capability as draught animal is much better compared to other breeds which are used to the sandy desert areas.

But one of the main reason for the drop in camel population over the years is due to the loss of its traditional role as a vehicle for transport and draught animal in agricultural fields during ploughing and harrowing has been now taken over primarily by mechanisation and coming of automobiles and tractors .

“The role of camel is becoming limited. The cost of maintenance of a camel has also risen. Growing urbanisation, industrialisation with concomitant pressure on agricultural land has led to the loss of camel’s natural grazing land,” Patil said.

The Mewari camels, already having a low population, were badly hit by these developments. Eighty per  cent of  India’s camels are in Rajasthan though the animal is also found in Gujarat, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.

A white camel - if NRC is able to breed successfully - may increase the market value of camels and bring them back in the reckoning. On the last count the total number of camels in the country stood at 5,17,000 only.

“At the NRCC, the scientists brought the camels of the Mewari breed from the hilly tracts to conserve and preserve the germplasm and undertake improvement in the breed. We got a regular brown female camel which gave birth to the white calf for the first time in the 27-year history of NRCC,” Patil said.

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