Half The Camels In The United Arab Emirates Were Killed By Plastic Bags


The United Arab Emirates Ministry of the Environment has declared that half the dead camels in the desert region of Falaj Mualla were killed by plastic bags: after taking one as a snack, the camels suffocated when the plastic hardened in their massive stomachs. While the camels themselves decomposed extensively, the plastic bags in their stomachs didn’t. Rather than camels being adventurous eaters, the explanation is that plastic bags retain the smell of food.

Khalid Al-Sa’edi, the Ministry’s Director of Awareness, explained that the study “assures us that certain behaviours of some community individuals adversely affects the environment and lives of the creatures.” After camels were killed by plastic bags, the bags were displayed in a glass case as a reminder. The UAE’s Environment Agency warned that waste should not be chucked away in desert parks and camping areas, which harms their beauty and causes bad smells.

In 2011, after it was reported that 11.6 bn plastic bags weighing 140,000 tonnes were used in the country each year, the UAE mounted a campaign, “Make UAE Plastic Bag Free,” which aimed to eliminate their use by 2013. With camels still being killed by plastic bags, the campaign evidently still has some way to go. Inspectors from the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority visit people to implore them to behave in an environmentally-friendly manner, dispensing brochures.

Camels sometimes fight back against the species that is causing them such ill. Camels have been implicated in the spread of the incurable Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which has killed hundreds of people, 80 percent in Saudi Arabia. The second-highest number of infections occurred in the UAE: camel payback. MERS-CoV is a cousin of SARS, which killed around 900 people and crippled hospital systems in Canada, China, Hong Kong and Vietnam in 2003.

In the UAE, the Al-Ain Hospital recorded 33 camel-inflicted injuries to people between 2001 and 2007. All victims were male. 25 were camel caregivers and five were camel jockeys – children. Seven people were grabbed by the camel’s mouth and thrown to the ground. Two were bitten on the neck, with one left dead and the other quadriplegic. Most injuries occurred in the rutting season, from November to March.

References: 1) BBC

About the Author Timothy Chilman

Timothy Chilman used to work in IT. Once, in Sydney, he was turned down for a job because he was “too flamboyant” (“Someone who wears green tartan suspenders to a job interview probably isn’t going to fit in here”). Timothy then became an English teacher. University students in Bangkok complained that he was “too enthusiastic” and company students in Prague complained that he was “too theatrical.”

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