Why Are Huge Numbers Of Camels Dying In Africa And Saudi Arabia?Science Daily — More than 2000 dromedaries -- Arabian camels -- have died since August 10 in Saudi Arabia. Various theories have been put forward to explain the numerous deaths. For several years, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa have also seen similar numbers of deaths. In 1995-1996, CIRAD worked on a fatal epizootic disease affecting dromedaries in Ethiopia.
A group of camels in the Saudi Arabian desert. (Credit: iStockphoto)
Analyses are being conducted to confirm or rule out the hypothesis of food intoxication in the countries concerned. Poisoning caused by the ingestion of toxic plants, mycotoxins (microscopic fungi), or mineral deficiencies has also been suggested. The deaths are probably due to a multitude of factors, which have a detrimental effect on the immune system, including some viruses which could increase the severity of infections or parasitic infestations in animals.
As Bernard Faye, head of the animal resources department at CIRAD, explains: "For years, we have been witnessing new pathologies in camels. There is nothing to suggest that the causes of these diseases are identical because the symptoms are not always the same."
The morbillivirus of small ruminants
The morbillivirus, which affects small ruminants, is found in Africa, the Arab Peninsula, the Middle East and India. It affects sheep and goats, in particular, but can affect other species. The disease is characterised by a high temperature, body lesions, pneumonia and death within 8 days.
In Ethiopia, during 1995-1996 and in Kenya and Sudan at the start of 2000, the virus PPR (small ruminant virus), was identified as being the potential cause of the death of hundreds of dromedaries. The clinical and epidemiological observations combined with the laboratory results (serology tests, viral detection), would suggest that this virus plays a role in the emergence of an enzootic disease among camel populations in the Horn of Africa. Other pathogens have been isolated but their presence could be due to the fact that the animals’ immuno-defence systems are depressed because of the presence of this virus.
"Additional research is required in order to determine the causes of this disease and to identify whether or not the PPR virus has a role to play, such as continued virology diagnoses, epidemiological studies to measure the respective roles of the virus, other pathogenic agents and environmental risk factors ", according to François Roger, Head of CIRAD’s research unit (UPR) Epidemiology and ecology of animal diseases. " In this way, we could contribute to understanding the causes of the emergence of this disease and its socio-economic impact."Note: This story has been adapted from material provided by CIRAD
This is an awful story. There are still bedouins in KSA whose livelihoods depend on their camels. They are such beautiful graceful animals, especially as seen out in the middle of the desert, away from all civilization, with their bedouin owners riding and herding them.
When I lived in Riyadh, my Swedish American girlfriend and I went to the camel races at the camel/horse racing stadium there. It was just an adventure for us to go. It was so delapidated back then.(1976) When we entered the stadium, the usher didn't know where to seat us as Western women. So he led us to the royal box, and there we watched the camel races sitting right behind Crown Prince Fahd. He was extremely welcoming to us as we sat and watched the races with him. He told us which camels were his and which horses belonged to his son. It was a surreal experience.
This is NOT what we went to see, but here is a camel race in Riyadh which seems to go right down a highway. Camels were just there, on the sides of the road, out in the desert, and sometimes riding in the backs of pickup trucks on the highway or through the city. Just a way of life in the Desert Kingdom.
Let's hope they find out what is wrong and can prevent more deaths to these beautiful creatures there.