- Title: USA/FILE: South African boy launches campaign to save camels in the UAE
- Date: 5th May 2008
- Summary: VOLUNTEERS PICKING UP RUBBISH
- Embargoed: 20th May 2008 13:00
- Topics: Environment / Natural World
- Reuters ID: LVAAMDQ39L6MSJ4H2D1M2CHLQB61
- Story Text: Throughout Arab history camels have served multiple purposes as food, friends, means of transport and war machines. They were key to the Arab conquests of the Middle East and North Africa nearly 1,400 years ago which first helped spread Islam to the world.
Over the past few decades, the Arab Gulf region has seen a booming economy and population growth, which has led to increased levels of pollution and littering. Litter from the cities and towns is blown into the once pristine desert and is not only unsightly but life threatening for the wildlife.
Camels roam the desert and eat anything they find, which makes them very highly adaptable animals. The obvious disadvantage is that they will inevitably eat any kind of man-made litter also. The litter will collect in the animal's stomach and lead to a slow and painful death.
According to recent scientific reports, one in two camels dies from ingesting rubbish in the Gulf.
Cameron Oliver, an eleven-year-old South African boy living in Abu Dhabi with his family, has made it his prerogative to help put an end to this crisis.
Oliver believes that one way of trying to save the camels is by making residents of the UAE aware of the devastating effects caused by people not picking up after themselves.
Holding a 20 kilogramme calcified camel stomach, the result of a camel eating plastic bags, Oliver explained: ''(This is) all the plastic and litter that's inside a camel that they ate, but it's all calcified, that means it's gone all hard. There's no litter outside the stomach, but inside there's so much pieces of nail, litter bags, everything. This would take two or three days to calcify and a camel could hold up to 60 kilos inside a camel's stomach. Depending on the size of the camel it can take up to six months to calcify," said the boy, who has started his own awareness campaign, which includes communal desert clean-ups.
Oliver's idea came from a school project, which he and the rest of his grade at the Raha International School (RIS) were asked to undertake. The project involved choosing a topic which they felt passionate about and which they wished to change to improve the world.
Many of the children targeted environmental issues. RIS encouraged children to investigate chosen topics themselves and develop their own self-studying abilities. The school's programme rarely refers to textbooks, in order to teach the students how to raise questions and investigate independently.
Oliver had recently read about the dangerous effects littering has on the environment and wildlife, and so decided to start a campaign to raise awareness, hoping to be able to save a part of the Arab Gulf's heritage -- the camel. Part of Oliver's campaign was designing and printing t-shirts, hats and bumper stickers asking people to stop killing camels through littering. He has even designed his own website where people can log on and find out all the information regarding the issue and details on how they can help.
"You know, I believe that the camel is the most important planetary animal we have. Everyone is talking about global warming and expanding desserts and decreasing water resources, if we could take one animal into the 22nd century, for me, the camel would be it. So to see a young fellow like this taking up a cause to make people more aware of camels. And also I guess too, in short, the whole plastic bag thing is a big problem," said Alex Tinson, a vet who is supporting the young boy with his project.
With the help of the Abu Dhabi 4x4 Club, Oliver organised his first desert clean up day, which he hopes will be the first of many more to come.
Fellow students from RIS, parents, teachers and concerned members of the community gathered to spend the day cleaning up rubbish blown out from the city or left behind by irresponsible visitors.
The money raised from 'Cameron's Camel Campaign' will be used in the development of biodegradable plastic bags.
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