Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Pack of Camels

As instructed the night before, we were outside our hotel at noon to be picked up by our host Sharock (Ali) Al-Sharif in his Porsche SUV to go on some ‘outings’.
We drove for about twenty minutes off the Manama island and toward Saudi Arabia when we pulled into a stone gated area. We found out that all of the King’s palaces were hidden amongst these stone gated forests of palm and palmetto trees. After one right turn we were parked in front of huge tan and burnt red stone stables. Although horses are prized and well maintained here, these were not stables for those four legged friends—these were the king’s camels.
This country seems to thrive on courtesy; everyone we have met is willing to help as much as they can. After walking around, keeping our distance from the animals, a trainer approaches and offers us a tour of the outdoor facility. Due to their aggressive natures, the male camels are separated from the females; as are the young from the rest of the heard. While the females are content being grouped and pinned together in large numbers, all the males are hobbled and chained in their own area. A hobble is often used on a horse in the states, meaning the two front legs are bound together with a three foot range of movement to prevent the animal from running off.
After touring the main area we were taken to a more remote location where they kept the newborn and mothering. We learned that camels carry their young for twelve months before giving birth, are very docile during the process, and afterward remain just as large until the work the weight off. There was a new born in the pin ahead of us, just a day old, and already walking. Much like baby deer they are quite wobbly on their feet, and much like a puppy, they try to jump around to get your attention. This newborn in particular bonded with the trainers and thereby all human contact. We were able to hug his neck like any animal and he offered several kisses.
Although the baby camels like to kiss, not a one spit on our crowd. Apparently this is a common misconception about their behavior. What they are guilty of however, is trumpeting like elephants and hanging their tongues out one side of their mouths as a mating call, letting their partner, pinned in another location, know when they are ready.

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