Drastic climate change and disease is threatening the lives of camels in East Africa and the herders who rely on them.
An Iowa State University veterinarian is helping the herds stay healthy.
Drought is shrinking camel grazing land, spurring malnutrition and other diseases. ISU’s Paul Plummer leads the Camel Adaptation and Medicine in the East-African Landscape Project. He says it's focused on the major diseases responsible for decreased productivity in camels, starting the process of making veterinary diagnostic resources available in a manner that is culturally sensitive and allowing for easy access to the camels. The first phase of the project includes doing a needs assessment, by sampling a large number of camels for different diseases and interviewing the herders to determine what diseases they view as being important. The two methodologies may not come up with the same list. There may be diseases that are extremely important to the herders, such as a disease that would make the camels stop producing milk, but on the veterinary scale a disease that kills the animal is more important. It's a double pronged approach. The research project is as much about the health and well being of the East Africans as it is about the camels.
"It is a culture where literally the line between livestock and life and death is so fine that by helping the camels we have a huge impact on the health and well being and food security of the families. It's not just about camel disease, it's about camel disease because it helps people. "
About 19 million camels live in the countries of Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan.