Absence Excuses For Desert Dwellers

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T.R. THIAGARAJAN

A mong the various desert animals, the camel is the most useful to man. This fascinating animal has developed unique qualities in order to survive life in the desert.

Camels belong to the family camelidae. The Arabian camel with a single hump is classified as Camelus Dromedarius, while the Bacterian camel with the double hump as Camelus Bactrianus. Camels are herbivorous, ruminant animals, similar to cattle. Though their favourite food is tender leaves. They thrive well on the salty scrub of the wild desert. As is well known they can survive even without drinking water over long periods. This is because of its ability to recycle the water in the bladder. Contrary to the popular belief that the hump contains water, it actually serves as a reservoir for the storage of energy producing fat. This stored fat is drawn and used by the animal as food during long travel. To prevent their feet from sinking into the soft soil and also to protect them from the burning heat, their feet are suitably padded. Their eyes too are well protected with long eye lashes so the desert storms that raise up the sand do not harm the eyes. The Arabian camel usually stands seven feet tall at the shoulders. This helps them to keep their body away from the blazing heat that radiates from the sandy surface of the desert.

Camels are friendly animals. Their remarkable endurance and strength have made them a valuable beast of burden. Despite moving at a slow pace, they can travel as long as 29 miles in a day.

Nomads of the desert depend heavily on them for food too, as there is hardly any vegetation in the desert. Camel milk has a high nutritive value and is wholesome food. Known as "Desert Vitamin" this has a relative advantage over cow's milk as the cholesterol content is 40 per cent less than the latter. Lactose (milk sugar) is relatively less while its mineral content, essential for the human body, is very high. It contains Vitamin C and does not curdle like cow's milk even when it is sour. Owing to these exceptional qualities, desert dwellers consider camel's milk as nature's boon to them in the absence of traditional food like vegetables and fruits. Camel meat is excellent for human consumption as it is free from cholesterol. Camel hair is extensively used to weave tents and rugs while its hide is used to manufacture leather goods.

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Source : http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/2001/10/06/stories/13061105.htm

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