Ilse Köhler-RollefsonOur lady of the camels

Published in 2002clockTime to read: 40s

German veterinary surgeon Ilse Köhler-Rollefson works with camel herders in India’s remote Thar Desert and champions traditional pastoralist communities worldwide.


The one-humped camel has thrived for centuries as a load carrier in India’s hinterland, giving the Raika people a livelihood and an identity. But habitat loss, disease and sell-offs have decimated herds.

The Raika people believe that without camels, there would be no Raika.

Ilse Köhler-Rollefson has combined western medicine with traditional remedies and pastoral techniques to save the herds and help the Raika diversify into selling camel milk and other products, causing the Hindustan Times newspaper to name her “Our Lady of the Camels”.

Köhler-Rollefson lives with the Raika for much of the year and works as a vet. She also defends their rights by lobbying the Indian government. As part of her advocacy, she helped found the non-governmental organization Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan to coordinate a regional effort to save the camels. She also plays a key role internationally as a core staff member of the League for Pastoral Peoples. In 2014, Köhler-Rollefson published a book about her. In 2014, Köhler-Rollefson published a book about her experiences, Camel Karma. Twenty Years Among India’s Camel Nomads.


Rolex Awards for Enterprise


Share this page