World Camel Day 2020

A day to recognise camels and their importance for many people’s livelihood. 

Camel train, Wadi Rum
Camel train, Wadi Rum

There are 2 species of camels (Camelus).  The Dromedary with a single hump and the Bactrian Camel with a double hump. Both the Dromedary and the Bactrian camels are native to dry and desert areas of Asia and northern Africa.  

The Bactrian camel (Camelus ferus) is critically endangered.  The last count in 2008 was 950 individuals (10% of the camel population), numbers are decreasing due to habitat loss, livestock farming, hunting, and trapping, a food source for humans (IUCN).

The Dromedary (Camelus dromedaries) population is around 13 million (90% of the camel population) captive working animals, they are extinct in the wild. However, there are a significant number of feral camels in parts of central Australia, (1 million), and their population doubling every 8-9 years. This is as a result of camels that escaped from captivity in the late 19th century and bred prolifically. The Australian government has culled more than 100,000 camels as they utilize large amounts of resources needed by farmers.

Pair of dromedaries in Wadi Rum
Pair of dromedaries in Wadi Rum
Dromedaries with front legs tied in Wadi Rum
Front legs tied to prevent running away, Wadi Rum
Camel facts

Humans domesticated camels around 5000 years ago and for as many years camels have been a mode of transport. Known for carrying heavy loads through deserts for long periods while remaining hydrated which made them essential for desert dwellers. They are also a vital source of food, milk, and meat. Dromedaries have adapted to survive the harsh desert elements.

Their large nostrils have the ability to close avoiding sandstorms thus prevent sand from entering their lungs. They have two rows of bushy eyelashes and three sets of eyelids to protect their eyes from the desert sand and scorching sun. Large thick and tough lips allow for eating thorny and tough vegetation found in deserts. Thick and large footpads make traversing rough and rocky terrain and walking on soft shifting sands possible.  Camels can kick from all four legs outwards to protect themselves.

Camel portraiture
Friendly dromedary, Wadi Rum

Camel humps do not store water as many people think. However, they can store up to 36 kg of fatty tissue which is used as an energy source during long journeys when there is no food or water.  The fat is metabolised into water and energy allowing them to survive without water for up to 7 months, during which time they will lose up to 50% of their body weight.  

A fully-grown dromedary is around 2.15 metres tall to the top of their hump, they can run up to 65 km/h in short bursts but mostly will stay at speeds of 40 km/h.

Their average life expectancy is around 30-50 years in the wild, however, their life expectancy in captivity is around 20-40 years due to ill-treatment mainly by tour operators.

Charismatic dromedary, Wadi Rum
Charismatic dromedary
Camel train, Wadi Rum
Camel train through the desert, Wadi Rum
Threats

In recent times camels are being used to generate income for tourism by tour companies.  This is frequently at the expense of the animal’s health and wellbeing due to the long days of camel rides and trekking, poor conditions, and abuse. Many sick, old and injured camels are forced to work beyond their capabilities with scant regard to the welfare of the camels. 

Camel with front legs tied, Wadi Rum
Dromedary with front legs tied to prevent it running away, restricting movement, Wadi Rum

Camels are not designed to be ridden and require intensive training often being treated very harshly and kept in very poor conditions causing pain and suffering to the animals. Camels are also used for wrestling and captive circus animals. They are frequently subject to miserable lives in small enclosures and beaten into submission with sticks and forced to walk in blistering heat without water or food. Many tour operators insert pegs through camels’ noses to enable them to be trained and controlled more easily.  For example; when required to kneel down for people to get on and off their backs.

Indian dromedary muzzled and heavily laden and muzzled
Heavily laden with constricting trappings and muzzled waiting for tourists, India
Heavily laden and chained camel, India
Head restricted with trappings, tied up with minimal movement allowed, India
Chained up with restricted movement in hot sun, no water, no food
Heavily bridled, saddled and chained in full sun, no water or food, Petra
Emaciated, exhausted dromedary collapses, Petra
Emaciated, exhausted dromedary collapses, Petra
Protect

Protect camels and other captive wildlife. Say NO to the exploitation of animals in the tourism industry and don’t support this of tourism and say NO ride any animals.

References

https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/63543/12689285

https://www.worldanimalfoundation.com/advocate/wild-animals/params/post/1297935/camels

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/a/arabian-camel/

https://www.feralscan.org.au/camelscan/pagecontent.aspx?page=camel_cameldamage-anoverview

https://www.unilad.co.uk/news/peta-reveals-dark-truth-behind-tourist-camel-rides/

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