JEDDAH: Do not kill your camels. Send them to us, Saudis have told Australians through a massive campaign on the Internet. The Australian government has announced plans to use helicopters and marksmen to corral and kill 6,000 feral camels in a small northern town next week.
Using electronic sites, the Saudis have called for a massive campaign in support of Australian camels. They called on wealthy camel-loving citizens to come together and work out a plan to bring the camels to Saudi Arabia where they are loved and respected. Camels, known as the “ship of the desert” because they can live for days without food and water, are favorite animals in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf countries as well as parts of Africa and Asia. Camels are not native to Australia but were brought from Afghanistan in the 1840’s to help people travel in the outback. There are more than a million camels in Australia now and the number is expected to double in nine years.
The Saudi Internet campaign was launched under a Qur’anic theme to make it more appealing to the people. Verse 17 of Surah Al-Ghashiyah (Overwhelming Event), which asks Muslims to meditate on the camel as a symbol of a miraculous creation of God, has been widely quoted by the campaigners. The verse says: “Do they not look at camels and how they are made?” (88:17)
Australians see the camels as a nuisance competing with sheep and cattle for food. They trample vegetation and invade remote settlements in search of water and frighten people as they tear apart bathrooms and rip up water pipes.
A number of people in the Kingdom who raise camels have expressed willingness to receive the Australian camels. “I own more than 80 camels but I am quite willing to receive as many more from Australia,” Salim Al-Hajjaji said. He said he had grown up with camels. “I am now about 50 years old but I am as attached to camels as I was in my boyhood,” he said.
Khalifa Al-Bigaili, another camel owner, asked Gulf businessmen to bring these animals from Australia and put them on special farms in order to sell their milk. “We can buy them cheap or get them for free since the Australians do not want them,” he said.