‘Genetic makeup makes survival tough for Kutch camels’
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Results of a genetic study of the endangered Kutchi camel— the central and state government are spending several crores of rupees to conserve the unique breed — came out last week, said D N Rank, a professor in the Department of Animal Genetics and Breeding at Anand Veterinary College, AAU, who had collected 74 blood samples in Kutch district last September.
The tests show the Kutchi camel has a lower genetic diversity when compared to other species such as cattle, sheep or goats, professor Rank said, adding that camels as a species seem to have a lower genetic diversity and that studies on Rajasthani camels also show similar results.
"Low genetic diversity usually means that a living organism is less able to adapt to changing environments," said Professor Rank, adding that changing weather, unconventional rainfall and changes in seasonal temperatures could worsen a camel's chances of survival and reproduction patterns while increasing susceptibility to ailments.
The professor, however, said low genetic diversity may not be the sole reason for the camel breed being endangered.
"There could be many other factors involved, both natural and artificial," he said.
These could include less dependency on camels as load animals due to better transport facilities and the younger generation being less excited about camel rearing. Both these factors could mean there is less time and effort given to camel breeding and rearing, he said.
Next week, the AAU and the state's Animal Husbandry Department are organising a seminar and camel health check-up camp in Bhuj next week.
The seminar — "Technology interventions to enhance camel productivity" — would bring together 60 breeders, 50 veterinary scientists and government officials to try and find out the problems breeders face and teach them the utilities of the camel, said organising secretary Professor K N Wadhwani of AAU.
The health check-up, to be held in another part of the district, is expected to treat 1,000 camels. Recommendations would then be drawn up from the seminar so that conservation efforts can be directed to address these issues.
The genetic study, however, is only the first such study and a number of studies over years, even decades, would be needed to ascertain whether the genetic diversity is getting lower. "If that is the case, then it will be a major cause of concern," said Professor Rank.
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