Camel Rescue Centre in India is world’s first
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2011:
JAIPUR, India–Help In Suffer-ing on March 13, 2011 opened
a new Camel Rescue Centre at Bassi, on the outskirts of Jaipur. The
announcement was of global humane significance because, as best
ANIMAL PEOPLE can determine, the Help In Suffering Camel Rescue
Centre is the first facility built specifically to help camels in
humane movement history, and only the second dedicated camel
hospital in the world.
The first was the Dubai Camel Hospital, opened in 1990 by
Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum to treat the 3,000 racing and
dairy camels “belonging to the Maktoum family and their friends and
relatives,” wrote BBC News science reporter Anna-Marie Lever in
By then, after almost 20 years in service, the Dubai Camel
Hospital workload had expanded to include treating “4,000 breeding
camels, 2,000 racing camels, and doing research into common
afflictions,” founding veterinarian Jahangir Akbar told Zac Sharpe
of the Dubai periodical Al Shindagah. “Young camels tend to suffer
from sore shins and damaged knee joints; older camels are admitted
for lameness and arthritis,” Akbar said.
Noted Lever, “Respiratory complaints caused by infection are
also common, as are gastric problems, because trainers push
carbohydrate down their camels in an attempt to give them more energy
to race, leading to acidosis.”
Help In Suffering sees mostly cart-pulling camels, treating
them from mobile units before the completion of the Camel Rescue
Centre. Much of the work of the Help In Suffering Camel Project
involves undoing the harm done to working camels by folk remedies,
and educating the camel drivers against using them, regardless of
“For example,” explains the Help In Suffering Camel Project
web site, “a common method of treating throat and cold infections,
or lameness, has been to inflict a deep burn by means of an iron rod
applied to the skin of the affected area,” which “is not only
useless but can threaten the life of the camel.”
The Camel Project team also sees a lot of colic, “commonly
caused by lack of drinking water, poor quality fodder mixed with
large amounts of sand, or by intestinal parasites. Skin conditions
caused by ticks and mites are common,” says the web site. More
difficult afflictions to treat include tryapanosomiasis, caused by a
blood parasite, and lameness and foot injuries. Foot and leg
problems are especially common when camels, who have soft padded
feet rather than hooves, are worked on paved roads.
The most frequent problem that the Camel Project sees,
however, is that “Camels have traditionally been controlled in India
by wooden nose pegs inserted through the external nares, to which
the reins are attached,” the web site explains and illustrates.
“Friction caused by the nose peg results in suppurating, non-healing
wounds which attract flies, becoming infested with maggots. Parts
of the nose and face can then be eaten away.”
Help In Suffering promotes the use of smooth plastic nose
pegs instead, and of longer pegs, to prevent the peg ends from
chafing the camels’ noses. “In March 2002, the first month of the
Camel Project,” records the web site, “26.6% of 45 camels treated
had nose peg injuries. In March 2005 this had been reduced to 13.5%
of 223 camels treated.”
The greatest part of the Camel Project workload is
preventive. The first 37,350 treatments included deworming 15,500
camels, and affixing 11,000 reflectors on camel carts to keep motor
vehicles from colliding with them at night.
Though Help In Suffering is the only Indian humane society
with a full-time camel clinic, many others aid camels when they can.
There are only about 170 camels in Hyderabad, Blue Cross of
Hyderabad founder Amala Akkineni told S. Sandeep Kumar of The Hindu
in October 2008, but the Blue Cross of Hyderabad nonetheless
conducts camel health camps to mark World Animal Day, treating about
30 camels per year.
More often, Indian humane societies pursue litigation to
confiscate camels from Muslims who buy them for sacrifice at the
Feast of Atonement. Results are mixed, depending on the sympathies
of the local courts and the extent of violation of animal welfare
laws documented by the societies. Each year several dozen camels are
rescued, while as many as 100 are slaughtered despite legal appeals
filed on their behalf.
Working from a mobile unit, ranging as far as 30 miles from
Jaipur, veterinarian Devi Shankar Rajoria and British volunteer vets
Richard and Emma Morris started the Help In Suffering Camel Project
in June 2001. Now headed by Pradeep Singhal, DMV, the Camel
project is funded by Animaux Secours of France, the Marchig Trust of
Swtizerland, and the Carpenter Trust of Britain.
The Camel Rescue Centre was funded by a second Swiss
organization, the ELSU Foundation.
The involvement of Animaux Secours, the Marchig Trust, the
Carpenter Trust, and the ELSU Foundation on behalf of camels
contrasts with the perspective expressed by Brooke Hospital for
Animals publicist Kirsty Whitelock in February 2011, after Egyptian
Society of Animal Friends president Ahmed al Sherbiny and volunteer
Dina Zulfkiar objected that camels were not included in the Brooke
fodder distribution to working animals near the Giza pyramids. The
Brooke mobilized to feed horses, mules, and donkeys after becoming
aware that dozens had allegedly starved to death, along with at
least three camels, when the uprising that deposed former dictator
Hosni Mubarak halted tourism to Egypt, leaving many working animal
keepers withod means to buy fodder.
“The Brooke’s efforts are focused on working horses, donkeys
and mules,” Whitlock told ANIMAL PEOPLE, from London. “Whilst we
recognize that camels are in need too, our mission is to help
Humane Society International veterinarian Hassan Al Maraghy
eventually arranged for the camels to be fed.
Founded in 1923 by self-taught homeopathic veterinarian Kate
Hosali and her daughter Nina, who were horrified by the cruelty they
had seen during a two-year trek across North Africa, the Society for
Protection of Animals in North Africa has always treated camels–but
quietly. Now working in 30 nations, most of which have working
camels, SPANA mentioned camels just twice in its 2008 annual report,
and not at all in the 2009 annual report. Of the 691,000 animals
SPCA treated in 2008-2009, 533,000 were equines. Camels were lumped
together with dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, goats and “others,” as
animals of presumed lesser interest to donors.
Still heavily used
Despite the apparent indifference of most major international
animal charities toward camels, only equines are used more for work
in Asia and Africa.
Globally, United Nations Food & Agricultural Organization
figures show 59 million horses in domestication, 44 million donkeys,
and 11 million donkeys, compared to 25.4 million camels. But there
are 21.5 million domesticated camels in Africa, about equally
distributed between North Africa and East Africa, compared to just
18.9 million donkeys, who are the most abundant equines.
In addition to camels, including dromedaries, about 7.8
million other camelids are in human service, according to FAO data.
Most of these are llamas and alpacas used for transportation, meat,
and fiber production in the Andean regions of South America.
Camels have fallen into disfavor in many places where they
were formerly used.
“The grunting camels used for 35 years to ferry salt from
Mali’s northern mines to Timbuktu are gone,” Washington Post staff
writer Karin Brulliard reported in September 2009. Traders are
instead making the 400-mile journey by truck, Brullard explained,
cutting the travel time from three weeks to two days, and increasing
the number of trips a salt trader can make from two a year, limited
by the seasonal availability of fodder along the route, to two per
Thus the working camel population has substantially fallen.
The decrease was especially marked in Asia from 1994 to 2004,
according to the FAO, which began tracking camel numbers in 1960.
Camel use fell 38% in India, and 20% across Asia as a whole.
But the Asian working camel population is again growing,
despite mechanization. There were 300,000 more working camels in
Asia in 2009 than in 2004, apparently because rising affluence in
remote parts of China, Mongolia, Pakistan, and Central Asia has
allowed people who never before could afford working animals to buy
Along with vastly greater and faster growing populations of
sheep, goats, and cattle, domesticated camels and equines compete
for fodder with wild Asian camels. From 600,000 to 1.4 million
Bactrian camels are in captivity, according to various estimates,
but no more than 850 remain in the wild, half of them persisting in
a nature reserve created from a former nuclear test area in the Lop
Nur region of western Xinjiang province, China, while the rest are
Most Bactrian camel conservation schemes focus on expanding
the camel meat industry, which has traditionally existed mainly to
make use of surplus and disabled working camels. “We need to
provide an income for Mongolian herders. Only in this way can we
protect the grasslands,” Inner Mongolian camel conservationist
Namujileicemu [who uses only one name] told Reuters in 2008.
Would-be Mongolian camel meat exporters may have to compete
with Australians, however. A succession of Australian governments
have explored a variety of schemes to slaughter the estimated one
million feral camels roaming the Outback for meat. Though a sizeable
Australian camel meat trade has yet to develop, Australian protocols
for exporting live animals to slaughter in eight Middle Eastern and
North African “cover cattle, sheep, and goats for slaughter and
breeding, as well as horses and camels,” acknowledged
then-Australian agriculture Peter McGauran in May 2007, after
extending the arrangements to Libya.
Currently Australian camels are culled from aircraft. The
remains are either left to lie, collected for rendering, or sold to
farms that produce crocodile leather.
Despite the lack of evident demand for camel meat, Sri Lankan
deputy minister of livestock H.R. Mithrapala announced a government
plan to raise camels for milk and meat, ostensibly for sale to Arab
tourists. Linked to a parallel plan to raise ostrichs, the actual
market appears to be a pyramid scheme speculating in breeding stock.
Horses are believed to have been domesticated about 5,000
years ago in the Ponto-Caspian steppe region, stretching from
Romania through Russia to Kazakhstan, according to genetic data
published in Science in 2009 by Arne Ludwig of the Leibniz Institute
for Zoological Studies in Berlin.
A bone believed to be from a wild dromedary has been
recovered from a 9,000-year-old human settlement site in Yemen.
Evidence that Bactrian camels were domesticated by about 4,600 years
ago has been found at Shar-I Sokhta, Iran.
Thus humans have apparently kept camels for almost as long as
horses, perhaps longer. Horses during this time have risen to
companion animal status in much of the world. But “Camels do not
have same appeal in the mind of public as our companion dogs and
cats,” observes Zeba Jawaid, managing editor of the Pakistani news
Possibly this is in part because the regions where camels are
most used are also historically impoverished, with little humane
activity–but some have had humane organizations for as long as
A larger issue may be that most of the places where camels
are still used are predominantly Islamic. Camels figure prominently
in both the Q’ran and the Hadiths, in which Mohammed’s disciples
recite the sayings of Mohammed, but while Mohammed urged kind
treatment of animals as a general principle, he said little on
specific behalf of camels. Moreover, far more passages record
Moham-med sacrificing camels, ordering that camels be slaughtered
for meat, racing camels, and urging a companion’s tired camel to go
faster than document concern for camel welfare.
Just one Hadith appears to disapprove of overdriving camels.
In Bukhari 2:26:731 Ibn Abbas recalls that, “I proceeded along with
the Prophet on the day of Arafat. The Prophet heard a great hue and
cry and the beating of camels behind him. So he beckoned to the
people with his lash, ‘O people! Be quiet. Hastening is not a sign
of righteousness.” As Mohammed himself was apparently riding a camel
and carrying a lash, his objection was evidently to driving the
camels aggressively, not to the use of the lash per se.
One other Hadith praises companions who attend camels, but
in the context that the camels were subsequently used to fetch water
for humans. Recalled Anas in Bukhari 4:52:140, “We were with the
Prophet and the only shade one could have was the shade made by one’s
own garment. Those who fasted did not do any work and those who did
not fast served the camels and brought the water on them and treated
the sick and (wounded). So, the Prophet said, “Today, those who
were not fasting took the reward.”
Another Hadith, Bukhari 7:62:19, implies that learning to
ride and care for camels teaches kind and careful behavior. Recalled
Abu Huraira, “The Prophet said, ‘The best women are the riders of
the camels and the righteous among the women of Quraish. They are
the kindest women to their children in their childhood and the more
careful women of the property of their husbands.'”
Camels sometimes spit at humans to whom they take a dislike,
and can be balky and dangerous–but relative to total use, camels
kill and injure far fewer of their drivers, riders, and caretakers
As with donkeys, who are numerically probably the most
abused working animals worldwide, camels may be mistreated and
overlooked chiefly because of their hardihood, patience, and
Plaint of the Camel
New York stockbroker and author of children’s verses Charles
Carryl, 1841-1920, had no known direct acquaintance with camels.
He was known as a humanitarian chiefly through familial associations.
Carryl’s father-in-law, Apollos Russell Wetmore, founded the New
York Juvenile Asylum in 1865 and was was an acquaintance of American
SPCA founder Henry Bergh. Carryl’s son Guy Wetmore Carryl, was a
poet who wrote at times on animal subjects.
But Charles Carryl himself in 1884 wrote The Plaint of the
Camel, mentioning a litany of common camel welfare issues:
…there’s never a question
About my digestion-
Anything does for me!
…no one supposes
A poor Camel dozes-
Any place does for me!
Lambs are inclosed where it’s never exposed,
Coops are constructed for hens;
Kittens are treated to houses well heated,
And pigs are protected by pens.
But a Camel comes handy
Wherever it’s sandy-
Anywhere does for me!
People would laugh if you rode a giraffe
Or mounted the back of an ox;
It’s nobody’s habit to ride on a rabbit
Or try to bestraddle a fox.
But as for a Camel, he’s
Ridden by families-
Any load does for me!
From Carryl’s day to this, for most camels in most of the
world, The Plaint of the Camel is still the status quo.