Camel love in time of culling: In UAE they love them, in Australia they cull them
He was waiting for us in front of Mr. Mohammed Khalaf Al Mazrouei's camp. At first sight, one could take him for a local, but Kamahl Druesne, is neither Emirati nor Bedouin. He is an Australian that came all the way from his country to share his love for camels with the sons of desert from the UAE and the Gulf region at the 6th edition of the Al Dhafra Festival in Al Gharbia (the Western Region) in Abu Dhabi.
For the Festival's duration, he is staying at the camp of Mr. Mazrouei, and spending his days with the locals, exploring their culture and trying to learn from them about camels, their training, characteristics, and benefits.
"Mr. Mazrouei invited me and I said yes."
A different 'Lawrence of Arabia' who came in a time of peace to a land of peace, Druesne was standing in the midst of sand dunes, wearing a traditional Emirati attire, and waiting for us to come, listen to his story and tell the world about the passion he has for camels, and the love he feels towards the desert, the Bedouins, and the Emirati people.
"Tell the world", he said, "the people in this country have shown a great deal of hospitality. They were too generous, and gave me a special opportunity to share their annual celebration of Bedouin life, and their love for the camels."
On a special mission to denounce the culling of camels in Australia, documentary filmmaker Kamahl Druesne is trying to find a helping hand and expose "the massacre conducted by the Australian authorities."
"I'm not here as a tourist. I'm here to tell about the slaughter of camels in Australia. The camel population numbered about one million in my country and now it has fallen to 750,000. These camels are being culled. The authorities claim that they are causing trouble, and triggering much damage. They call it culling. I call it slaughter," he said.
Speaking of the main aim of his visit, Druesne said, "I'm interested in people who can help in saving the camels. I have 11 camels in Australia, 10 females, and one male. The large majority of camel owners in Australia don't know where to start. We need help and it's not about money; it's about support."
According to him, over 100,000 camels have been removed and the current rate of camel removal is around 75,000 per year as part of a government project aimed at reducing the overall population and lowering their density.
"The body behind this slaughter is called The Australian Feral Camel Management Project. The authorities present it as an environmental group and they call the camel culling a 'non-commercial removal'. I'm baffled," he said.
Druesne noted that about 70% of Australia is semi arid to arid desert, saying that this is the camels' natural environment and that there is enough space to accommodate the Australian camel population.
"There are about 24 million head of cattle in Australia. Yet, no one complains. I just think that people are scared of camels for they don't know about their benefits and qualities," he noted.
Speaking of his stay at the camp, Druesne hailed the Emiratis' warmth and generosity and voiced his admiration of their way of life and culture.
"I love it here in Al Gharbia. It's an opportunity to meet and talk with people. The nice old habits and values are being preserved despite the advance of technology. People gather at the Majlis to talk, spend some time together, and sometimes listen to poetry. It's such a nice and warm ambiance," he said.
"I met with Ali Mohammed Al Qahtani today. He's a participant in the beauty competition for Assayel (light-skinned) and Majahim (dark-skinned) and he won the first and third position," he added.
Speaking of the Al Dhafra Festival and the UAE efforts made to preserve and reinforce the camel culture, Druesne praised the role of the Emirati authorities and the work of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.
"With the spread of technology, the camel culture can evaporate. The UAE government is playing a significant role to keep the pride and the camel culture going. In the UAE, the authorities are spending millions on the Festival to promote heritage and encourage camel owners, whilst in Australia, the government is spending millions to cull camels."
Druesne also made some suggestions. "There are so many avenues you can create within this Festival such as an event about the scientifically-proven benefits of camel milk and research conducted in this field. In the United States, camel milk is used as a physiotherapy for treating children with autism. In fact, you can run a whole festival about camel milk," he said.
On the benefits of his adventure at the Gate of the Empty Quarter, Druesne said, "thanks to the locals, I learned many things, notably how to distinguish between camels. Now, on account of what I have learnt here and built on the basis of the knowledge I had before, I can tell a lot about camels, their reactions, and their categories. It's so amazing how people here can differentiate between a male and a female from a distance and judge, according to accurate standards, which camel is the most beautiful."
"The other day, I succeeded in picking three of the winning camels. Among the standards adopted to determine the most beautiful camels are the width of the chest, the straightness of the ears, the length of the lips, and the neck, and the distance between the hump and the neck," he said.
When we moved from Mr. Mazrouei's camp to the Camel Mazayna platform, camels were waiting, and the jury members were checking each of them to select the most beautiful of Assayel, and Mahajim. Standing there, Druesne was looking intently and with much love at the camels, he pointed to one of the Assayel, and said, "This one will certainly win a prize. She's shining and she's so fair".
And yes, Druesne's pick was a winner!