Wildlife & Biodiversity

World camel day: As tourists stay away from Odisha beaches, owners abandon camels

Several camels in Odisha — used by tour operators to earn money by carrying tourists in beach sites — abandoned by owners

 
By Ashis Senapati
Last Updated: Monday 22 June 2020
An abandoned camel found on the National Highway in Odisha. Photo: Ashis Senapati
An abandoned camel found on the National Highway in Odisha. Photo: Ashis Senapati An abandoned camel found on the National Highway in Odisha. Photo: Ashis Senapati

The World Camel Day June 22 every year recognises an animal that is important to the livelihoods of a large populations in several parts of the world.

India is no different: Several communities have had a history of interdependence with camels. But in Odisha, several of them have been abandoned by former owners.

Few people have visited beaches in the state ever since the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was implemented.

Some animal organisations have begun rescue operations to save the abandoned animals.

Beach tourism in Puri, Paradip, Gopalapur and other areas in the state have been affected, with several tourists, including those within the state, cancelling their holidays.

Beaches across Odisha bear a deserted look. Several people earlier enjoyed riding camels on the beaches. Tourists are frequently offered the chance to ride camels for hours on end with little thought given to how this affects the camel’s well-being.

The lockdown, however, forced owners to leave beach areas and abandon their camels, said Ramesh Mohanty, a tour operator in Puri.

For thousands of years, camels have been used as a mode of transport in the desert. They carry heavy loads and remain hydrated for hours at a time, attributes that make them vital for the survival of desert dwellers across the world.

Camels on beaches are forced to ferry tourists around a terrain that is not suitable for them.

The life of a camel out of its natural habitat is miserable, said Purabi Patra, an environmentalist and chairperson of non-profit Animal Welfare Trust based out of capital Bhubaneswar.

“We received a phone call last week that an abandoned camel was roaming on a street in Paradip for more than two weeks. On receiving the information, our volunteers rushed to Paradip and rescued it,” said Patra.

“We carried the animal in a vehicle from Paradip to our animal shelter home in Bhubaneswar,” Patra added.

Veterinary doctors treating the animal said it had become weak.

It is an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 for people in charge of animals to abandon, cause cruelty or detach themselves from their animals, according to Patra.

Rumors of COVID-19 being transmitted from animals to humans has led to several people in the state abandoning their pets.

“Since the day of the lockdown, we rescued around 80 pet dogs and other animals,” said Patra.

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