Saudi-Arabia: Visiting Abu Nakhla Camel Market – Tradition at Whatever Cost?

Camel at Abu Nakhla Market, Saudi Arabia

What we observe today at the camel market in Abu Nakhla worries us, makes us angry and sad at the same time. The young camel cows Maysaa and Ghada are supposed to serve as surrogate mothers for orphaned camel calves and give them milk. This is not easy, as camel mothers recognize their babies by their smell and reject foreign calves. The Sudanese animal handlers at the market in Qatar have a cruel way of getting around the problem.

We observe how they use brute force to constrict the nasal passages of the two animals. Their nostril channels remain extremely tightly tied for 12 to 24 hours until they are practically destroyed and the camel cows have lost their sense of smell, so then the foreign calves are brought to them and as they cannot recognize them as such, they accept them. 

Maysaa and Ghada suffer immense pain during this procedure. They struggle, try to free themselves, rebel. But they are tied together like postal packages. They have no chance. They are not given painkillers or anesthetic to sedate them. A heavy sandbag is placed on Ghada's halter rope so that she can no longer move. Maysaa is tied up in the blazing sun at 46 °C, a saddle is put on her back to which heavy bags filled with stones are attached. 12 to 24 hours in this condition is unimaginable. 

We ask the veterinarian at the market for help. But he is no less desperate than we are. He knows this method very well. He has shown the animal handlers at the market possible alternatives, such as hormone administration. But they do not trust modern medicine. However, they call him when the procedure is over to treat the camel mothers' injuries with antibiotics. Together with the vet, we take a look at a mother camel that has undergone the procedure. She is treated, but the entire jaw and nostril area looks shattered.  The vet has no legal recourse, as there is no animal welfare law in Qatar and there are no controls on the administration of antibiotics. Ethno-medical treatment is widespread in camel husbandry. Certainly not all of them are to be judged negatively, but where the animals are unnecessarily inflicted with such considerable pain, something must be done about it. we want to do everything we can to stop such cruel methods.