Born in Germany in 1953, Ilse Köhler-Rollefson qualified as a veterinary surgeon in the 1970s, but was disappointed to find that in veterinary practices life-and-death decisions were mainly based on economics.
She soon found interesting work in Jordan with dromedaries and their Bedouin breeders, which led to a doctorate on the domestication of the camel. A research grant then took her to Rajasthan to study camel pastoralism.
From her first encounter in 1990 with the Raika people in this north-west Indian state, Köhler-Rollefson knew she had found what she was looking for. The Raika have a mystical connection with camels. Since then, she has divided her time between Germany and Rajasthan, where she helps the Raika care for their herds.
Köhler-Rollefson’s 2002 Rolex Award brought many benefits, not least the self-confidence to continue her growing role as an international campaigner for the rights of the Raika and all pastoralist peoples.
Published in 2009