Ironically, the scenario comes at a time when the Rajasthan government has made camel a state animal. The government also intends to bring in a law punishing camel slaughter and trafficking soon. With poor sales, camel keepers from faraway villages had to return disappointed. "Fodder and camel keeping is becoming more and more expensive and there are no buyers. At this rate we will have to let them lose," camel keeper Bhanwarlal said.
Once sold for Rs 25,000 to 40,000, camels are now fetching only Rs 8,000 to 10,000. Shrinking pastures, and a fall in demand from the Border Security Force, which maintains a camel cavalry contingent, is also a concern.
"Our forefathers have kept camels for so many generations, we have been keeping them but our children will only keep camels if animals last," camel keeper Khemchand said. The new laws are intended to protect camels whose numbers have declined from 7.63 lakh in 1995 to 2.24 lakh in 2013. But experts feel it could be self defeating unless there are incentives for camel breeders to promote camel milk products.
Use of camels as eco-friendly means of transport, using camel dung as manure and building shelters for old and sick beasts are some of the steps that can be taken to save the animal. With sharp decline in the number of camels as well as loss of inclination and ability among the camel keepers to continue with what their forefathers have done all these years, camel lovers and conservationists fear that Pushkar fair which has camels as it unique selling point too stands to lose its identity.
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