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RAK to build first camel underpass in hopes of reducing accidents
posted on 08/01/2016

Camels wandering onto roads are a concern not only for motorists but for camel owners, too.
That is why Ras Al Khaimah is building its first camel underpass, on the fast and busy Al Shuhada road which connects the emirate with Fujariah.
Even though the number of vehicles hitting stray animals on roads fell between 2014 and last year, RAK's Public Works and Services Department is building the 37-metre-long underpass as a way of reducing casualties.
The underpass is seven metres long and 3.6 metres high.
The number of vehicles that hit animals in RAK was 213 last year, down from 292 the previous year, said Captain Khalid Al Naqbi, head of the media department at RAK Police.
Eng Ahmed Al Hammadi, general director at PWSD, said: "The purpose of this project is to secure the movement of camels between the sides of Al Shuhada road, which is one of the fastest roads.”
The underpass is expected to be ready by the middle of the year.
Emirati camel owner Hamad Al Ghafli praised the underpass plan.
"It has a huge benefit for camel owners and it is important for the safety of motorists,” said the 28-year-old. "It will also reduce the number of run-over accidents.
"It also eases the process of transferring camels from side to side [of the road].”
Mr Al Ghafli said that there are two underpasses in Umm Al Qaiwain at Al Labsa, and it is a system that works.
He also said fences erected by the side of the road were useful at such underpasses.
"The most important thing is putting fences on the right and left sides of streets, especially in villages because they are very protective and can protect camels and houses,” he added.
"Fences are more significant than subways [underpasses] because we can transfer them by vehicle but fences can protect them while they [the camels] are walking alone.”
Saudi Anas Tym, who lives in Sharjah and who drives in RAK frequently, said that the presence of stray animals on roads can be deadly for both the motorist and animal.
"I usually go to RAK to spend time in the desert with my friends, and when I see a camel crossing sign on the street's side, I do not speed because hitting a camel is fatal,” the 26-year-old said.
Mr Tym said that the camel underpasses will definitely reduce the number of accidents.
"It can save the lives of motorists who surely drive fast on highways and save the possessions of owners, who pay a lot of money to own these camels,” he said. – The National -

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First cloned camel gives birth to first cloned offspring in Dubai
posted on 14/11/2015

The first calf to come from a cloned camel has been born in Dubai.
At the Reproductive Biotechnology Centre, her six-year-old mother proved that a cloned camel can be fertile and reproduce normally.
Dr Ali Ridha Al Hashimi, the administrative director at the centre, and his scientific team made the announcement that Injaz, the world's first cloned camel, gave birth to a healthy female calf weighing about 38 kilos on November 2.
Injaz, whose name means "achievement” in Arabic, was cloned in 2009 from the ovarian cells of a dead camel.
Injaz conceived naturally and delivered after a normal gestation.
"This will prove cloned camels are fertile and can reproduce the same as naturally produced camels,” said Dr Nisar Wani, scientific director of the centre in Nad Al Sheba, last April when Injaz's pregnancy was announced.
Dr Wani said that many cloned camels have been created using cells from the skin of elite animals. The use of skin cells has made cloning easier.
Bin-Soughan was the world's first camel cloned from skin cells of an elite bull, in 2010.
"We have a few more cloned camels pregnant and are expecting them to deliver early next year,” added Dr Wani.
When Injaz was cloned, the news was applauded throughout the global scientific community, with the camel's picture making the covers of several scientific journals.
The centre was established under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. Its mandate is to develop and apply the latest biotechnology techniques to enhance the production of the animals of the region. – The National -

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Dubai camel milk chocolate heads for Harrods
posted on 27/07/2015

Dubai's own artisan camel milk chocolate is now being sold in London's world-famous department store, Harrods.
Al Nassma, the seller, is the only producer of camel milk chocolate in the world.
Martin van Almsick, general manager at the company, said: "Ten years ago, a non-European premium chocolate was not even imaginable. Yet, here we are, a thriving UAE brand producing an authentic elite chocolate matching the highest standard. The fact that an upscale department store with a long tradition and an impeccable reputation such as Harrods, has opened its doors to a niche brand such as ours, reflects a global trend towards innovative, out-of-the-box luxury products.”
The locally-inspired brand was established in Dubai in 2008.
The camel milk chocolate concept has taken four years of research before coming to fruition.
Camel milk is prized for its historical significance as a dietary staple in the formative years of the UAE's development, as well as for its health benefits, with a high vitamin and mineral content, antiviral and antibacterial properties and low fat content.
It has higher levels of potassium, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, sodium and zinc and there is 10 times higher levels of iron and three times the amount of vitamin C.
It was also used by Bedouin as a natural cosmetic to bathe in, wash their hair and to protect them from the sun.
Mr van Almsick said that "as an exclusive product conceptualised and produced in the United Arab Emirates, that has rapidly gained global consumer appreciation, we feel that the exotic appeal will be well received by Harrods customers”.
So far, the chocolates are sold at a handful of locations – Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab hotel and Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. – The National -

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World’s first cloned camel celebrates sixth birthday with pregnancy
posted on 09/04/2015

Injaz, the world's first cloned camel, celebrates her sixth birth yesterday and she's pregnant, according to scientists at the Reproductive Biotechnology Centre in Nad Al Sheba, Dubai, who cloned the camel from ovarian cells in a breakthrough lauded by the world's scientific community.
According to The National daily, the scientists are also eagerly awaiting the birth of her calf, which was conceived naturally.
Dr. Nisar Wani, scientific director of the centre, said that since Injaz was born, many cloned camels had been produced using skin cells, which has made the process easier. "We are very excited because Injaz is now pregnant and we expect to have a calf from her late this year," Dr. Wani said.
"She has conceived in a natural way. This will prove cloned camels are fertile and can reproduce the same as naturally produced camels."
The birth of Injaz created great excitement, with the New York scientific journal, Biology of Reproduction, carrying her picture on its cover.
In 2010 Bin Soughan, the world's first camel calf cloned from the skin cells of a bull, came into the world.
The Reproductive Biotechnology Centre was established with the support of H.H Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, and has a mandate to use biotechnology for the good of the region's camels. – Emirates News Agency, WAM –

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Camel shipments from GCC to undergo strict screening for MERS-CoV: MoEW
posted on 08/05/2014

The Ministry of Environment and Water announced yesterday it will not allow any livestock shipment which does not meet approved import requirements.
In a statement, the ministry says that it is implementing strict veterinary and biosecurity protocols as well as preventive measures against animal infectious and epidemic diseases at border check points to ensure that camels imported from GCC into the UAE are free from any of these ills including brucellosis and the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
The statement adds that camel shipments will be quarantined between 24 to 28 hours until laboratory tests were conducted.
The ministry affirms that these measures are part of its policy to protect public health and keep local animal wealth safe and way from imported epidemic and communicable diseases. – Emirates News Agency, WAM

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Camelicious milking success in the UK
posted on 01/03/2014

Dairy product Camelicious is milking the success of its venture in the UK — with plans to cater to 35 additional retailers in London by the end of the year.
Even though camel milk may not be the type of product that springs to mind when thinking of goods in the UK, ethnic groups are keen to buy it as it gives them a taste of their home.
The UAE-based company's product can be found at seven outlets in London, eight in Sheffield, and six stores in Bradford, in addition to several smaller shops in both Tottenham and Manchester.
The Emirates Industry for Camel Milk and Products (EICMP), which is the producer of the camel milk brand Camelicious, has been sending out its trial batch to the UK since January and will start its first regular shipment in March.
"We faced a few challenges when we first entered the UK market, and had to build up awareness and show people that camel milk can be used in any recipe, and can be a substitute for people who are intolerant to cow's or sheep's milk,” Mohammad Ashraf, director of sales at EICMP, told Gulf News on Friday.
He explained that most people are health conscious these days, and that every person who drinks milk is seen as a potential customer.
Camel milk products have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties and can help those who are recovering from stomach bugs and infections. Camel milk also contains 10 times the amount of iron found in cow's milk and five times the amount of vitamin C.
"In the next few weeks, we will send out a regular shipment from 300-500 litres of camel milk every 10 days. The products used for exporting have also been made with a longer shelf life, so that they can last for 15 days, instead of one week,” said Ashraf.
Camel milk can now be found at ethnic and halal shops, but within the coming months, he pointed out that it will also be available at high-end shopping centres, and shops selling specialised food delicacies.
But the exportation of Camelicious will not stop in the UK, as EICMP intends to start its second phase and branch out into Germany, the Netherlands and France. To cater to the growing number of consumers, EICMP is expecting to raise the number of camels from 3,600 to 10,000 within two years. – Gulf News -

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Camel milk gains popularity internationally
posted on 23/09/2013

A camel milk producer in Dubai predicts a surge in demand for camel milk internationally following a request from the food authorities in the US to use the strategy of a Dubai-based company as a benchmark in producing camel milk in bulk. The US request is a result of growing demand for camel milk in the US.
As the camel dairy industry has only been established in the past decade and is still in an early stage of development, information on camel milk quality worldwide continues to be scarce.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US was initially notified about the process used at the Emirates Industry for Camel Milk and Products (EICMP) — the world's first commercial producer of camel milk — which owns the Camelicious brand, after one of its researchers published an article in the September issue of the Journal of Dairy Science.
”The future implication of this and other relevant studies is to set benchmark quality values for camel milk, increase consumer confidence and awareness,” said Dr Peter Nagy, veterinary doctor and farm manager at EICMP.
Following dairy cattle, water buffalo, goats and sheep, camels are the fifth most important dairy animals in the world.
Speaking to Gulf News, Dr Nagy explained that such studies help to create further opportunities for camel milk producers to apply for export licences more easily.
"The research results in the long run will open the doors to camel milk producers to enter new markets and thus foster the further development of a strong and sustainable camel milk industry in the Middle East and globally,” he said.
The study, which was verified by a peer review process, was carried out by an international panel of scientists led by Dr Nagy, and is the first comprehensive report on the long-term monitoring of somatic cell count and microbiological quality in bulk tank milk of dromedary (Arabian) camels.
Due to the comprehensive approach of the research, the study delivered a reliable and scientifically proven quality reference for camel milk and its results will serve as a benchmark to develop quality standards and regulations for the camel milk industry in the future. Solid scientific findings such as this work will enable regulatory bodies to include camels in the recognised listings of milk-producing animals — making camel milk a listed consumer good.
The study has already received a positive reaction from the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipment (NCIMS) in the US, and this organisation is responsible for the implementation of milk quality regulations (Grade "A” Pasteurised Milk Ordinance) set by the FDA.
"Through this scientific study, our research provided new data that is likely to be used by the regulatory agencies in the US or other major economic blocs to control food safety issues and protect consumer health related to camel milk products,” added Dr Nagy. – Gulf News
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‘Camelicious’ milk to sell in Europe
posted on 07/07/2013

The Emirates Industry for Camel Milk & Products (EICMP), producer of the leading camel milk brand ‘Camelicious', commenced sending its first products to various countries in the European Union.
After the company's official listing on the website of the Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection of the European Commission (SANCO), becoming the first Middle Eastern company to export camel milk products to the European Union, the first smaller quantities of camel milk powder, fresh milk and camel whey powder have reached Europe this week.
Commenting on the first exports, Mutasher Al Badry, Deputy General Manager & Business Development Manager at EICMP said: "We are very proud to be the first UAE based company to ship camel milk powder to Europe on the new permit. We would like to thank all parties involved in this effort to see Dubai and our brand ‘Camelicious' find its rank amongst global exporters.
"We are thrilled to see our products on the European market. This is a ground-breaking step for our company as well as for the camel milk industry in the UAE.”, he continued.
EICMP had been listed in the section for third country establishments of Section IX, raw milk and dairy products, under the UAE section entitling the company to officially export camel milk and camel milk products to all of the 27 member countries of the EU in June 2013.
The first camel milk products were sent to potential business partners of Camelicious to the Netherlands and Denmark. EICMP is focusing on the B2B market in Europe working to establish further business ties with European companies and exploring additional fields of usage for camel milk. Main target are companies in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic field as well as sport and nutritional supplements. The recently shipped samples of camel milk powder and whey powder are serving related trials run by potential partner companies as well as camel milk powder instantisation.
The launch of medical creams and applications for skin conditions such as acne developed in cooperation with a Jordanian bio-tech centre and a US based pharmaceutical company is expected to take place in the near future.
The first container export of ‘Camelicious' camel milk powder will be shipped by the sister company Al Nassma Chocolate LLC to Austria for production of its first and finest camel milk chocolate.
Martin Van Almsick, General Manager of Al Nassma Chocolate LLC said: "Al Nassma has been shipping camel milk powder to Austria for the last five years, yet a special permit was always needed. The official listing of our sister company EICMP will facilitate our operation tremendously, also for our café-lounge concept ‘The Majlis', the first and finest camel milk café.
"We are very optimistic that we will witness camel milk become a product that is recognised globally for its high quality and benefits. The long-term goal now will be to develop a strong and sustainable camel milk industry, the first of its kind in the world. Our company will delightedly contribute to these efforts”, he concluded.
In March of this year, following a five-year-long process issuing and amending regulations and guidelines to comply with those of the EU Commission, Dubai received EU permission to export camel milk and camel milk products to the EU. In a joined effort and in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment & Water and Dubai Municipality, the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL) and EICMP presented a camel milk safety plan which was evaluated as compliant to the EU's food safety and health guidelines. – Gulf News
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UAE and Dubai obtain EU Commission approval
posted on 10/02/2013

The Emirates Industry for Camel Milk & Products (EICMP), producer of the leading camel milk products ‘Camelicious', announced that the UAE and Dubai have received final approval from the European Commission as per Commission Regulation (EU) No 605/2010 to become the first country in the Middle East to export dairy products to the European Union.
The EU Commission ratified the camel milk safety plan presented by EICMP (Camelicious) and confirmed its compliance to the EU's food safety and health guidelines, making Camelicious the first Middle Eastern dairy factory to export its products to the 27-country Eurozone.
The approval comes after several rounds of inspections made by EU Commission delegates to the EICMP (Camelicious) factory as well as audits to the guidelines and requirements of MOEW and Dubai Municipality.
"Camel milk is, without a doubt, one of the best dairy products in the world because of its exceptional health and nutritional value. The EU Commission's approval for the export of Camelicious products is a stamp of approval to the quality standards of the UAE in general, and to our company in particular,” said Mutasher Al Badry, Deputy General Manager & Business Development Manager at EICMP.
EICMP was established in 2003 and launched its first product in 2006. It is the largest camel milk farm and factory in the world, housing a herd of about 3,000 camels. – Gulf News

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Hope in the eye of a camel for human medicine
posted on 04/02/2013

Scientific studies of camels have provided important clues to everything from understanding advanced reproduction techniques to saving endangered species.
Now a research project with staff at Al Ain's UAE University, and Alfaisal University in Saudi Arabia, is using camels owned by the President, Sheikh Khalifa, to understand how the proteins in camel tears could improve human medicine.
The aim of the project, which started in 2007 with a grant from UAE University, is to find an effective medicine to treat Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease that destroys the eyes' ability to produce tears, making them more prone to bacterial and viral infections.
"Patients often complain of dryness of the eyes in the form of foreign body sensation or grittiness," explains Professor Walter Conca, MD, a former UAE University associate professor who now works at Alfaisal University Medical College and King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Riyadh.
"It can be extremely disturbing. We thought that the camel, which is naturally living in the most arid climate on the globe, must have some sort of protective system which allows it to live in the desert.
"This was our hypothesis and we started collecting the tears from the animals and finding the basic components of the protein molecules."
Sjogren's syndrome is often developed by people with other autoimmune and rheumatic disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and primary biliary cirrhosis of the liver. When Prof Conca worked in the UAE he also saw patients at Tawam and Al Ain hospitals. Many of them, he says, suffered from autoimmune disease and were searching for ways to manage their condition.
Artificial tears in the form of eye drops are the only way of managing the dry eye disorder. But they are neither very effective nor offer a very advanced solution. Camels, however, suffer very few eye diseases and seem very well adapted to living comfortably in the driest and dustiest of environments.
If the team can identify the proteins that are helping to fight off infections and preventing anything from inhibiting the eyes' ability to produce tears, they can help treat dry eyes in humans, Prof Conca says.
They have received a 2 million riyal grant (Dh1.9 million) from Saudi Arabia's King Abdulaziz Centre for Science and Technology.
"Our hypothesis is based on the fact that camels have adapted incredibly well to living in the desert," says Professor Michael Conlon, a researcher from UAE University. "There, winds often blow sand into the air and to shield their eyes, the camels have long eyelashes that catch most of the grains.
"But the eyelashes don't do all the work. The camels also have effective tears which help lubricate their eyes and protect them from infection. So if we analyse all the compounds in camel tears, we might find a protein or something that can be added to artificial tears to make them a lot better.
"This is all about adaptation. The camels have adaptations that no other animals have that don't live in these extreme conditions. We can learn from these and use them to our advantage," says Prof Conlon.
"At the moment we don't know what we're going to find, so we can't say when the end will be."
The researchers are working with a team at an Al Ain camel farm and reproduction centre that is owned by Sheikh Khalifa. The 500 dromedary camels kept at Hili Embryo Transfer Surgery Centre make perfect subjects, and the head veterinarian, Dr Alex Tinson, is happy for his animals to participate in the research.
"Here, we try to mix research with practical things," Dr Tinson says. "Obviously we want to breed first-class camels, that's the practical side of things. But we also do a lot of research, especially into reproduction techniques.
"And the tear project is another example of how we can learn from the camels. Now we are appreciating the camel a lot more. We have discovered that they have a totally unique immune system which we can use to learn more about human medicine."
Dr Tinson moved to the UAE from Australia after being approached in 1988 while taking part in the Great Australian Camel Race, said to be the world's longest endurance race.
He came to Abu Dhabi for just two years to set up a specialist centre but is now in his 25th year.
As well as head veterinarian of the Hili centre, he is also director of laboratories and research, and manages all the Scientific Centres and Presidential Camels under the Department of President's Affairs.
Along with his colleague Dr Rajesh Singh, Dr Tinson's role is to select the camels for the project and collect the tears using a plastic syringe with the needle removed.
It is important not to over stimulate the eyes as the chemical compounds of induced tears (such as those produced by cutting onions or being poked in the eye) are different to the tears that occur naturally to lubricate the eye.
The syringe is inserted under the bottom eyelid for a few seconds while a handler holds the camel's head still. Gloves are worn to avoid any contamination of the samples.
Once in the syringes, the tears are emptied into large test tube containers. A special solution is added to stop any enzyme activity from killing the proteins.
It is already known that camel tear fluid has three main layers: an outer layer made up of lipids that protect from evaporation, an aqueous middle layer that contains the proteins and an inner layer containing carbohydrates.
It is the same model as human tears, but the proteins and molecule formations are different. Camels can break down any foreign bodies which land in the eye much more easily, and they also do not seem to be affected by anything (diseases or foreign objects) which could inhibit their ability to produce tears.
"We have found some very interesting things where we have compared human with camel tears," Prof Conca says.
"Lysozymes, for example, which breakdown bacteria, viruses and insects in camels have two molecular sizes whereas humans only have one.
"We hope that by analysing the composition of camel tear fluid, and by making discoveries like this, we could facilitate or assist or help in designing artificial tears for humans."
Prof Conca hopes to publish some of the team's initial work soon. "I hope within six months to have the definitive answer about the antibody composition," he says, "and we will go ahead and publish that initial work and see whether the initial observations are also pertinent to other strains of camel."
While other big mammals such as horses, elephants and whales have been studied in depth for decades, it is only recently that camels have received the same levels of attention.
"I don't think we have underestimated the camel," says Prof Conca. "I think since the Middle East is just beginning to expand, it's able to adapt the knowledge acquired elsewhere and bring it to the region here to look for things [in science] that are probably of value and unknown. It takes time."
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Camel cheese coming soon to supermarket shelves
posted on 23/01/2012

A local company has proved the doubters wrong by producing the UAE's first commercial batch of camel milk cheese.
Researchers had claimed it would be impossible to make because camel milk does not coagulate as easily as cow or sheep milk - a vital step in cheese making.
But after three years of work, scientists at the Emirates Industry for Camel Milk and Products in Dubai, which sells its products under the Camelicious brand name, have solved the problem.
By April three types of camel milk cheese will be available in UAE supermarkets.
"It was difficult because the solid matter in the camel's milk is less than the cow's," said Mutasher Al Badry, the company's deputy general manager.
The milk contains less than 10 per cent solids, which makes it hard to get a yield of cheese that is commercially viable.
"In cow's milk, they have industrial and artificial items that we don't want to add because we want to reach a premium cheese," said Mr Al Badry.
The low yield means the cheese will be expensive - although prices have yet to be announced - and will be sold only in select supermarkets such as Spinneys, Union Co-op and Abu Dhabi Co-op.
About 1,000 litres a day of the farm's milk will be used to make the three types of cheese.
"We will produce a very low quantity in the first year because we don't have enough milk and we have a lot of demand for it," Mr Al Badry said.
One of the cheeses is ideal for salads, another for cooking and the third is a table cheese.
The packaging and branding for all three is still being finalised.
The "salad" cheese has a taste akin to feta, with a creamy texture, while the cooking cheese is similar to mozzarella, but with a softer interior.
The ingredients are healthy - camel milk has 40 per cent less fat and cholesterol than cow milk, three times more vitamin C, more minerals and iron.
"Camel milk has a lot of benefits," said Mr Al Badry. "It's very rich in vitamin C, calcium and has a lot of nutritional elements."
A Mauritanian company has produced a Brie-like cheese from camel milk for the past 20 years but it is sold only in Nouakchott, the nation's capital.
Camelicious said its cheese had received a royal seal of approval, having been taste-tested by chefs working for a UAE royal family.
"They were really happy with it, they decided which taste and which type to go for," Mr Al Badry said. "We have a vision to export all our products but first we need to fulfil local market needs with milk and cheese."
To that end, the farm is looking to buy more camels overseas, to increase its herd from 3,000 to about 6,000.
It is also seeking breeds that produce more milk - up to 12 litres a day, rather than the current six or seven.
For the time being, it is likely to export only camel milk powder, rather than fresh cheese, to avoid prohibitively high prices for international consumers. – The National

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Plea to save camel habitat
posted on 08/01/2012

An initiative taken by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE Foreign Minister, has once again drawn everyone's attention to the conservation of desert ecosystems.
Sheikh Abdullah said through twitter that he would like to participate in the desert clean-up campaign on January 20.
The deaths of camels in the UAE deserts after consuming plastic bags have highlighted the levels of pollution caused by human beings in recent years.
The authorities have been conducting an awareness campaign to prevent pollution due to plastic bags and tourism related activities.
A senior official recently told Gulf News that tourism should produce benefits for the local community and help to preserve the local culture and heritage while contributing to the conservation of the environment.
It is critical that these operators understand that they have an environmental responsibility and that the guidelines which they and their customers are following contribute to the preservation of the very natural heritage that their business is promoting, said Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, secretary-general of the Environment Agency- Abu Dhabi (EAD).
Around 50 per cent of camel deaths in the UAE each year are attributed to plastic bags they have eaten, assuming it to be food, she said.
To help minimise the amount of litter polluting the environment, the EAD launched in February 2011 a campaign to raise awareness of the harmful effects of plastic bags on the environment and to reduce the amount of packaging used by manufacturers and retailers, an official spokesman of the agency said.
The campaign urges consumers to switch to biodegradable plastic bags, and supports manufacturers and retailers in making this switch.
EAD's ‘Make UAE Plastic Bag Free' campaign was launched in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water (MoEW), the Centre of Waste Management — Abu Dhabi (CWM) and local supermarkets and malls. The campaign urges consumers to reduce the use of all types of plastic bags, and demonstrates to them the negative effect of plastic bags on the UAE's wildlife.
In February, EAD will mark National Environment Day by taking this campaign to even more key malls around the emirate.
New partners will come on board for this phase including Abu Dhabi Police, Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and the Family Development Foundation. Continuing to support the campaign will be major retailers such as the Abu Dhabi Cooperative, Carrefour, Lulu Hypermarket, Spinneys and Abela.
According to the Centre for Waste Management — Abu Dhabi, plastic makes up 19 per cent of domestic waste in Abu Dhabi city. Plastic bags are light in weight, therefore they can be easily carried by the wind into forests, deserts, beaches. Floating plastic bags also pose a threat to biodiversity when animals mistakenly swallow them for food. Also, plastic bags choke sewers, contaminate soil and waterways and also enter the food chain.
EAD's campaign was launched to support the government's initiative to phase out the use of plastic bags in the UAE by 2013. In 2009, the MoEW issued a Ministerial Decision to implement a programme to reduce the use of plastic bags. – Gulf News

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New technology to milk camels
posted on 28/11/2011

Camels at Al Ain Dairy Company are still a bit nervous around their new Dh4.2 million milking machines.
The automated camel-milking parlour was flown in a couple of months ago from the company's UK-based partner, Fullwood, who supply camel-milking technology worldwide.
The farm's 1,200 camels are currently being introduced to machine milking by having portable milking machines hooked up to their udders.
"We've been trying for the past month to milk them with those to get them used to being fitted with the technology," said Shashi Kumar Menon, Al Ain Dairy's chief operating officer. "We can't rush the process because they're sensitive creatures."
The milking process takes about one to two minutes and Mr Menon anticipates the camels will be ready for full milking with the new system in the next three to five weeks. "They were reasonably calm today but they're still a bit fidgety," he said.
The procedure involves attaching vacuum tubes to the udders, which generate a gentle suction to make the milk flow. "Currently, we can milk 18 to 20 camels at a time," said Mr Menon. On average, 500 camels are milked every day.
Although the technology will increase the farm's camel milk production by only three to five per cent, the hygiene and contamination factors are what add value to the process. "We've come a long way from the bucket to the bottle," said Mr Menon. "It's very important that we deliver the best standards for our customers."
The farm's 20 milkers will no longer need to manually milk the camels, but they will not be losing their jobs: the farm has found having one of the milkers standing next to the camels keeps them calm.
Hand-milking brings with it its own set of problems - for humans and animals," said Mr Menon. "We've learnt to live with it until now but the machines will make the milk 100 per cent safe."
The milk is routinely tested in a laboratory for bacterial count, fat, acidity and antibiotics. According to T Kuran, the company's production manager, 3,300 litres of camel milk is tested every day.
"From time to time, there would be problems detected in the lab," said Mr Menon, who said that the new system would ensure fault-free milk. "There is a standard operating procedure with machines that cannot be enforced with 100 milkers."
Saudi Arabia is one of the largest producers of camel milk globally, but the country does not have such machines. In the UAE, only one other company - Camelicious - does.
Al Ain Dairy Company currently produces one million litres of camel milk a year.
Once the system is successfully installed and the camels are fully acclimatised to it, the company will open an extension of the farm: its 375 square-metre camel-milking production plant will be expanded to 1,200sqm and the current 3,200 litres of camel milk that are produced there daily will increase to 15,000 litres at the beginning of next year. An extra 500 camels will also be added to the new farm.
"We are considering exporting to Kuwait at the end of next year," said Mr Menon. "We will also have four new machines for our camel milk ice cream," said Sreedhara MJ, the company's production manager for camel milk.
Al Ain Dairy is preparing to launch its ice cream product next month along with a line of camel milk products. "With the demand for camel milk in the UAE reaching about four million litres a year, it is much needed," said Mr Menon.
"We are also looking into powdered UHT camel milk for the future," added Mr MJ. - The National

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Camel milk hits the big screen
posted on 02/10/2011

A documentary about camel milk that features the UAE will be shown to audiences in London this month at a culinary arts festival.
The 50-minute film Hot Chocolate for Bedouins examines the nutritional benefits of camel milk and how it helps marginalised people in poor countries.
The UAE is one of more than 20 countries featured in the film, which was conceived as a three-month project on camel cheese.
"We found out that, supposedly, camel-milk cheese is impossible to make," said Philippa Young, a UK filmmaker associated with the What Took You So Long Foundation.
But Ms Young and the two members of her team visited a dairy in Mauritania that produces camel-milk cheese, which looks like Brie or Camembert, and discovered otherwise.
In their efforts to tell the story of camel milk, she and her fellow filmmakers, from Sweden and the US, have travelled to much of Asia and some of Africa.
Filming was done in countries including Oman, Qatar, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Morocco, Egypt, India and Kenya.
The team also discovered there is advanced research on the merits of camel milk being conducted in Holland, Sweden and Denmark.
"We have gone wherever we heard a new story and where we felt we should go," said Ms Young, the producer.
The team was attracted to Abu Dhabi because of the annual Al Dhafra Camel Festival and its beauty contest.
Finding the idea curious, they soon changed their minds after looking at the camels on show.
"Camels are beautiful," Ms Young said.
The visit also gave the filmmakers a glimpse into the culture. With limited resources the team members used public transport and carried their own equipment.
After a day of filming at the festival, the team members were hitching to try to find shelter for the night.
Only 30 seconds passed before they were given a ride by a group of Emiratis who offered them shelter at their desert camp.
Despite a language barrier everyone had a great time, dancing around the campfire and drinking tea. "They were very happy we loved the camels as much as they did," said Ms Young. "We communicated through gestures and a little bit of English. "I was blown away by it. There was nothing there but just hospitality. This might sound strange to you but you do not get this in other parts of the world."
The crew also filmed at Dubai's Central Veterinary Research Laboratory. An extended version of the film will be finished next year after filming in the US and Pakistan.
Ms Young said promoting the consumption of camel milk could help the UAE preserve its environment.
"The weird thing is that in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, people have their huge farms with cows that are flown from Europe," she said.
Ms Young said cow dairies required a lot of energy as the animals had to be kept cool, but camels were perfectly adjusted to the climate.
"It could be something very proudly Emirati that you can bring to the rest of the world and be appreciated for," she said.
Alexa Perrin, the founder of the Experimental Food Society, which will take part in the festival where the film is screening, agreed.
Mrs Perrin was introduced to camel milk by her mother-in-law, Lilianne Donders, the "camel whisperer" who has lived in the Middle East for more than 30 years and has interacted with camel herders in Oman, Syria and the UAE.
Ms Donders has also trekked in the region with her own small herd of camels. She lives in Oman with her husband, Robert Weener, and her eight camels.
Ms Donders appears in Hot Chocolate for Bedouins after the crew interviewed her in Oman.
Mrs Perrin saw the film when it screened at a conference in May, and decided she wanted it to be part of her festival.
She remembers the first time she was invited to drink camel milk. She hesitated because of her distaste for cow's milk.
"I do not particularly like cow milk but when I was given camel milk I liked it," Mrs Perrin said.
She believes that because of its nutritional benefits - it has high amounts of vitamin C and proteins, and is low in fat - camel milk can fit in with the trend for healthy food in Britain.
"I think it will be very well received," Mrs Perrin said.
The UAE is applying to the EU for permission to export camel milk and products such as chocolates to Europe. The application, which began six years ago, is in its final stages. – The National

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UAE science could save rare Chinese camel from extinction
posted on 06/07/2011

Beijing - A breeding technique pioneered in the UAE to improve the speed of racing camels could help save the shaggy two-humped wild Bactrian camel, one of the world's most endangered species.
The wild camel was recognised as a separate species from the domesticated Bactrian camel only in 2008, and there are thought to be only a thousand of the wild Bactrian camel - scientific name Camelus ferus - left in the world, making it rarer than both the giant panda and the Royal Bengal tiger.
Most of the camels live in the deserts of Mongolia and north-west China, where the cold of the Gobi and the aridness of the Talamakan have discouraged human habitation and thus have protected the timid creatures for generations.
But China's recent economic boom has fuelled demand for the valuable minerals beneath the desert sands, and camel experts say increased human activity in these fragile ecosystems in the past quarter century has caused the camel population to drop by half.
Ironically, the largest population of wild camels, the 600 who live in the Lop Nur desert, probably gained a few extra decades of peace thanks to the Chinese army, which used the area to test 42 nuclear bombs between 1964 and 1995.
John Hare, a British explorer who founded the Wild Camel Protection Foundation, a charity to help save the animal, said: "As far as we know the tests have had no adverse effects on the camels at all, but that fact that it was a restricted zone was hugely beneficial."
With the population of wild camels plummeting, the foundation set up a breeding a programme in 2003 in the "Great Gobi A" nature reserve in Mongolia to make sure the rare beast, which has humps smaller and farther apart than domesticated Bactrian camels, and is as genetically different from the domesticated variety as humans are from chimpanzees, survives in captivity, even if it cannot survive the encroachment of human beings on its native habitat.
In the future, if conditions improve, camels from the programme could also be used to repopulate areas where the species has died out.
But growing a captive population to the size where it would be genetically diverse enough to survive an outbreak of disease, let alone act as a proto-herd for future re-population projects, relies on an animal's ability to reproduce quickly. And that is something the camel, because it rears its young in climates where resources are scarce, does not do.
Enter the Camel Reproduction Centre in Dubai.
Set up in 1989 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to breed a faster camel, the centre has perfected an embryo transfer technique which allows prize-winning female dromedaries to have multiple offspring every year, as opposed to one calf every two to three years.
The technique works by injecting the female camels with hormones so they release more than one egg when they ovulate. Normally, camels only release one, which means twin camels are rare.
Those eggs, once fertilised, are then washed out of the female using saline solution and planted in surrogate camels, which allows the biological mother to return to racing rather than sit out a season while she goes through a 13-month pregnancy.
In the case of wild camels, domestic two-humped Bactrian camels, which are native to Mongolia and are not endangered, could be used as surrogates, allowing the female wild camel to produce another batch of eggs when she goes in to heat the following year - something she would not do if she was pregnant or suckling her calf.
In Dubai, more than 100 camels have already been bred this way, some of which have gone on to win prestigious races such as the Gold Sword races.
Lulu Skidmore, the director of the Camel Reproduction Centre, said: "Twenty years ago almost nothing was known about the camel's reproductive system. We would be very pleased and proud if the technology we helped to develop in camels here in the UAE helped save an endangered species elsewhere in the world."
Using the technique, Dr Skidmore estimated the current captive population of 20 wild camels could be increased five-fold in matter of years.
But while the science exists, there a number of problems to overcome before any project employing the technique can begin.
Foremost is funding, which the Wild Camel Protection Foundation is now trying to raise. The embryo transfer costs as much as Dh10,000 (US$2,725) per camel. There is also the cost of outfitting the breeding centre with enclosures, scanning machines and microscopes. The veterinary staff would also have to travel to the UAE to receive training.
There would also be other issues, said Dr Skidmore, such as handling the wild camels, which unlike the camels she deals with, have never been domesticated.
Whatever the obstacles, she insisted it would be worth the trouble to save one of the only mammals that can live on salt water.
"The camel is a unique animal adapted especially for desert environments. With global warming, this could be the Age of the Camel." – The National

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UAE set to import camels
posted on 02/05/2011

The UAE might not seem short on camels, but camel milk farmers are planning to import them from central Asia regardless.
They are doing so because they have an eye on a potential explosion of demand if Europe decides to give the go-ahead to camel milk imports from the UAE.
Last July, the European Union approved the UAE's plans to demonstrate the safety and quality of the milk. Later this year, a team of inspectors will arrive to verify that those plans are being put into practice.
If their report is positive, the European Commission and the European Parliament will have to approve the UAE as a country that can sell camel milk to Europe.
But the country's two producers, Al Ain Dairy and Emirates Industry - which markets its camel milk products under the Camelicious brand - already struggle to keep up with domestic demand.
Emirates Industry produces 5,000 litres of camel's milk a day. Struggling to meet domestic demand, it would have to drastically boost production to supply Europe in any meaningful quantities.
The problem, producers say, is that while the camels are fast on their feet, they do not produce nearly as much milk as cattle.
While cows can produce up to 40 litres of milk a day, an Arabian camel makes just eight litres. They are unlikely to match the cows' productivity as a result of lacking udder cisterns, meaning they only produce milk when their teats are being suckled, but there is plenty of room for the camels to improve. Other breeds yield up to twice as much, experts say.
Part of the answer is selective breeding, which over the decades has greatly helped increase the yield of cattle and many other animals and crops.
To that end, Ulrich Wernery, the scientific director of the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory, plans to visit Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Kenya, where he will buy stock to bring back.
He is considering, too, buying semen from the US. Like the dairy industry, camel milk producers rely on artificial insemination.
Turkmenistan adopted dromedary camels during the Arab conquest in the eighth century, and since bred both native Bactrian - two-humped - camels and the Arabian dromedary - one hump - for their milk and meat.
According to Mr Wernery, that long history of breeding has allowed Turkmenistan's camels to yield nearly 50 per cent more milk than the UAE's. "It was the same process for people starting dairy farms 50 years ago," he says.
They are much cheaper, too. While a racing camel costs around Dh20,000, Turkmeni camels bred to produce milk cost just US$300 (Dh1,100).
And the potential could be huge. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates the world market for camel milk at US$10 billion (Dh36.7bn), with hundreds of millions of potential customers in Arab countries, Africa, Europe and North and South America.
Tests have shown the milk has less than half the fat and 40 per cent of the cholesterol of cows' milk - as well as three times the vitamin C.
It can be digested by people who are intolerant to lactose, and can even ease food allergies. All this, Emirates Industry believes, gives it the scope to be marketed as a health food.
Camelicious however, sees opportunities for ice cream, cheeses and an expansion of camel chocolate production - sold under the Nassma name.
For now, though, not all of the dairy producers are enthusiastic. Al Rawabi farm in Dubai has 10,000 cattle but no camels. It considered it, says general manager Ahmed Rahem al Mansouri, but decided the market was too small. – The National

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Camels could hold key to better cure for snakebites
posted on 24/03/2010

They are the pride of Arabia, the ships of the desert. Noble beasts, they change hands for millions of dirhams and are prized for their beauty. Now, according to scientists, camels could hold the key to a better cure for some of the world's deadliest snakebites.
A collaboration between researchers from Britain and Dubai using camels instead of the usual horses or sheep as incubators for a new antivenom is entering its final stages.
The project is focusing on African snakes including the puff adder, the saw-scaled viper and the black spitting cobra, which between them kill up to 30,000 people a year.
Antivenom is produced by injecting small amounts of toxin into animals and then harvesting antibodies, the proteins produced by the immune system to fight viruses, bacteria and venom. It is these antibodies, in serum form, that allow a person who has been bitten to fight the venom.
Because of the harsh environment in which camels live, they produce better antibodies than horses and sheep, according to Dr Ulrich Wernery, the scientific director of the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL) in Dubai.
Current antivenoms need to be kept frozen, a major stumbling block in parts of Africa, where unreliable electricity supplies give the treatments a short shelf life. This contributes to their high cost, putting the cures beyond the budgets of doctors in many areas where they are most needed. With few customers for antivenoms, big pharmaceutical companies largely halted production a decade ago
Camel antibodies, however, are more resistant to heat, so the new antivenom should not need to be kept frozen. "This is very important for Africa,” Dr Wernery said.
The antibodies produced by camels are also much smaller, about one-tenth the size of those from horses or sheep, so they penetrate tissues far more easily. The team also hopes that the camel antivenom will provoke fewer allergic reactions.
CVRL is collaborating with scientists from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, which has been collecting venom from many of the world's most poisonous snakes.
In Dubai, the CVRL team has injected each of about 40 camels with tiny amounts of the toxins from the African snakes. "We regularly take blood and check if the level of antibodies is high enough,” Dr Wernery said.
Each week, he collects 250 millilitres of blood from each camel to test whether the animal has started to produce antibodies
Once the level of antibody production peaks, more blood is collected.
Yesterday, "6A5”, a five-year-old male camel of the local breed, had reached that peak. It was led away from its enclosure, into a specially designed stand.
There, Dr Wernery shaved a small area on the left side of its neck, revealing a vein as wide as a child's hand. He made a small incision into the vein and inserted a large needle to collect the blood, which trickled into a large glass jar.
Once collected, the blood is left at room temperature for up to six hours so that the serum, the part of blood containing the antibodies, becomes separated from the blood cells.
After further treatment, the serum is frozen, and will remain so until the arrival next month of Dr Robert Harrison, the head of the Alistair Reid Venom Research Unit at the Liverpool school. He will use new equipment worth Dh3 million (US$817,000) at CVRL to produce the antibodies needed for antivenom.
Once that is done, the antivenom will have to be tested, first on rodents and then on humans. Only then will it be ready for wider use.
Then, according to Dr Wernery, the team will be ready for its next challenge – using the same technology to make camel-incubated vaccines for diseases such as polio, tuberculosis, malaria and even HIV. – The National

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Dubai scientists create first cloned camel and call her Injaz
posted on 14/04/2009

Scientists in Dubai have created the world's first cloned camel, offering a way to preserve special strains for racing and milk production. The female calf, named Injaz, was born at 4.30pm on April 8 and is healthy so far.
Injaz is the result of five years of work by scientists at the Camel Reproduction Centre and the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL) in a project initiated by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
"This is the first time scientists have cloned a camel calf,” said Dr Ulrich Wernery, the scientific director at CVRL. "She is a healthy female.”
The surrogate mother, which carried the embryo for a gestation period of 378 days, was also in good shape, he said.
Dr Lulu Skidmore, the scientific director at the Camel Reproduction Centre, said: "We are all very excited at the birth of Injaz as she is the result of great skill and teamwork of everyone at the Camel Reproduction Centre.
"This significant breakthrough in our research programme gives a means of preserving the valuable genetics of our elite racing and milk-producing camels in the future.”
The project began in 2003 at CVRL, where an Indian scientist, Dr Nisar Wani, under the supervision of Dr Ali Ridha, developed the techniques to produce a "reconstructed embryo” – an embryo carrying the DNA of a single donor animal. The embryo is created in the laboratory using eggs harvested from a female.
Scientists extract the DNA from the egg, replace it with the DNA of an adult animal, and then encourage the egg to develop into an embryo.
The embryo is then inserted into the uterus of a surrogate mother, which, if the procedure is successful, will carry the embryo to full term.
In 2007 Dr Wani moved to the Camel Reproduction Centre, where he worked with Dr Skidmore, an expert in embryo transfer, on implanting reconstructed embryos in surrogate mothers.
Injaz is the clone of a camel that was slaughtered for its meat in 2005, using DNA extracted from cells in the ovaries of that animal.
The DNA was placed in an egg taken from the surrogate mother to create a reconstructed embryo, and the embryo was then implanted in the surrogate mother's uterus. Injaz was the only live calf from seven induced pregnancies.
Dr Wernery said the low success rate was typical of cloning, since many of the impregnated animals miscarry.
"This is very typical for cloning, there are many attempts but only one will survive,” he said.
While Injaz was replicated from a camel chosen at random, in future scientists will look into cloning elite racing and milk camels – an idea supported by Sheikh Mohammed.
"We just wanted to establish the method,” Dr Wernery said. "In future we can most probably clone some special animals.”
Although proponents say cloning animals can help science create new, more effective drugs for humans, the practice has been opposed on ethical grounds.
Critics say the production of a clone involves subjecting animals to painful or risky procedures.
Mothers impregnated with reconstructed embryos often miscarry or give birth to abnormally large young.
Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be cloned, was diagnosed with arthritis only five and a half years after her birth and died of a lung disease common to older animals a year later. Scientists are now trying to find out whether using the DNA of an older animal to create an embryo puts clones at risk of premature ageing.
Despite advances in the technique that now allow scientists to clone horses, cats and other animals, Dr Wernery believes cloning will remain in the domain of scientific research for a long time to come. "It has more to do with scientific curiosity,” he said. "It is not something for mass production.” – The National

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Dubai-based scientists produce region’s first identical twin camels
posted on 14/05/2008

In an unprecedented breakthrough in the GCC region, Dubai-based scientists have successfully produced the first identical twin camel using the embryo splitting technology.
Zahi and Baih, the two identical twins, were naturally born to two surrogate camel mothers on February 10th and 23rd respectively after a pregnancy period of 13 moths.
According to the scientists' team at Dubai Camel Breading Centre, the genetically identical cubs are in a good health.
Used successfully for the first time in the Gulf region, the sophisticated technology included splitting a six days old camel embryo into two identical halves. The split embryos were treated in a before being implanted into surrogate mothers. – Emirates News Agency, WAM

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Camel cultures’ new use
posted on 29/04/2008

Camel racing has long been a favourite sport in Arabia, and the fastest animals are worth millions of dollars. However, a single injury can leave a champion racer lame and unfit to race again. Until now, the remedy for many joint injuries has been to pump the injured beast full of steroids or other drugs. But thanks to a technique being developed at the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL) in Dubai, such treatments could become a thing of the past.
Veterinary surgeons will be using the animal's own stem cells to help heal the damaged ligament, tendon or piece of cartilage. And given that the methods of harvesting the cells are not controversial and that the results are so promising, the potential for more development to treat human conditions has not been overlooked.
"There is a lot of lameness in camels caused by training and overtraining, as well as accidents – they just have to slip or stumble and it happens,” says Dr Ulrich Wernery, the CVRL's scientific director.
A subject at the research laboratory.
The relatively simple procedures could be extended to deal with much more than damaged joints. Even heart disease and other serious conditions in Arabia's favourite animal could be treated with stem cells. While stem cell research has been a bone of contention in the United States and elsewhere, the work being done in Dubai is free of the debate that the research affects human life.
Most work with human stem cells requires the destruction of an embryo to generate an embryonic stem cell line, but the new injury treatments require only fat to be removed from the afflicted animal.
Camel fat tissue contains undifferentiated cells capable of turning into any of the body's specialised cell types. These cells, because they can branch into new cell lines with any number of functions, are called stem cells. Scientists extract the animal's stem cells from the fat sample, inject the cells into damaged joints and the camel begins to heal.
"There are stem cells in every organ, but in the fat there are very good ones and nobody knows why,” Dr Wernery says. "The vet injects the stem cells into the injured area and these replace the dead cells and even induce the growth of existing stem cells in this area.” The pain caused by the injured joint is reduced immediately after the stem cells are injected, Dr Wernery says, and recovery typically takes half as long as treatment with drugs. Animals can, therefore, get back to racing more quickly.
The CVRL, using technology originally developed in the US and licensed by the American company Vet Stem, has been using a similar procedure to treat race horses. The CVRL is trying to perfect the technique in camels by finding the part of the animal's body that is the most suitable for extracting the fat sample from. Trials are taking place with some of the many retired racing camels staying at the CVRL's headquarters.
In horses, a vet cuts fat from the base of the tail, but this does not work in camels because they have hardly any fat in that region and muscle tissue is likely to be damaged.
The CVRL has also tried removing tissue from the hump, but the fat there is too fibrous and does not yield enough stem cells. Efforts are focused on extracting fat from the shoulder of camels, and tests on samples suggest this has the potential to provide enough stem cells for the proposed treatments.
The operation to remove the fat is simple and takes about half an hour. First the animal is given a sedative to calm it down and the shoulder area, where the fat will be removed, is shaved. After a local anaesthetic is injected into the animal's shoulder and the shoulder disinfected, the veterinarian makes a vertical incision down the side of the animal's shoulder. The fat – a sample of about 20g – is removed with a pair of scissors and dropped into a plastic container.
In the laboratory, centrifuges separate the various components of the fat sample so that stem cells can be isolated. The lab process takes about four hours, said the CVRL's head of molecular biology and genetics, Dr Kamal Khazanehdari says. "We need to make sure that the number of viable cells is sufficient to give back to the animal,” Dr Khazanehdari says. "We are also working to improve our lab technique, as up until now we've only used horses. Camel cells are different and so the centrifugation has to be different, so we are trying a variety of techniques to optimise the harvest.”
The CVRL hopes to perfect its techniques with camels this summer so that it can start working with lame animals by the time the next racing season begins in October. Dr Wernery expects hundreds of camels a year will be treated. Veterinary surgeons from across the Middle East and North Africa, or even beyond, will be able to send fat samples to the CVRL and receive back stem cell cu ltures to inject into their injured charges.
Stem cells that are known as pluripotent can differentiate into any type of cell while others called multipotent or unipotent can only turn into one or a few different cell types. Controversy has centred on research involving embryonic stem cells, which can transform into the various tissues of the growing body.
However, the work on camels involves the use of adult stem cells, which exist as a type of repair mechanism to heal damaged parts of the body. It is not just camels and horses that can benefit from this sort of work. Dr Wernery said stem cells could be extracted from people and then reinjected to repair damaged body parts. In the future, the range of injuries that could be treated was likely to grow.
"You can think about any injury – it could even be used for paralysis after accidents,” he says. "That would be fantastic. It would be amazing if this could help people to walk again.” – The National

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Mysterious camel-killing ‘disease’ in Saudi no threat to UAE
posted on 20/08/2007

Veterinary experts said a toxin rather than an infectious disease could have killed hundreds of camels in Saudi Arabia. They said there is no likelihood that animals in the UAE will die from the mystery ailment. Specialists say it is likely that poison was responsible for the deaths of more than 200 camels in the Dawasir Valley, 250 miles south of Riyadh.
The Agriculture Ministry in Saudi Arabia has said 232 animals died in four days, although some owners say the death toll could be much higher. Camel disease expert Dr Ulrich Wernery, Scientific Director of the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL) in Dubai, said "something very strange" was responsible for the deaths, but whatever it was, was not likely to spread to other countries. "I think it's a toxin rather than an infectious disease. There are no infectious diseases that can kill hundreds of camels like that. It's impossible," he said.
His comments echo those of the agriculture ministry in Saudi Arabia, which has said poisonous animal feed killed the camels. Dr Wernery said all his knowledge of the outbreak had come from press reports and a veterinary computer system, rather than from any involvement in dealing with the outbreak."I would love to go there and have a look myself because I'm very interested in any camel diseases," he said, adding it was "not at all" likely that camels in the UAE would die of the same cause.
While Saudi Arabia suffered an outbreak of rift valley fever in 2000, Dr Wernery said that disease was unlikely to be responsible for the recent deaths.
"Rift valley fever comes always after torrential rain and they haven't had any rain. I can 100 per cent exclude that," he added.
Dr Hesham Fahmi, acting head of the Veterinary Services and Veterinary Specialists section at Dubai Municipality, drew the same conclusions as Dr Wernery. "Camel diseases are very well known and documented and there's no disease that makes such sudden deaths. It was most probably toxins or chemicals or a kind of poison," he said, adding there was "nothing" for camel owners in the UAE to worry about. (Gulf News)

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Cure centre for animals big and small
posted on 02/03/2007

When camels or horses line up at racecourses in the Middle East, there is one centre that can take much of the credit for ensuring those animals are fit to compete.

Dubai's Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL) is arguably the foremost centre in the region for diagnosing and finding cures for animal diseases.

If someone needs to know whether their horse is disease-free, if their camel is really the offspring of a successful racing father, or if their bird is male or female, CVRL can find the answer.

The centre hopes to find a cure to conditions such as grass sickness, which killed one of the UAE's best-loved horses, Dubai Millennium.

Its extensive and immaculate headquarters in Za'abeel are a world away from the tiny laboratory of 20 years ago that was staffed by just three people.

Now, there are 90 people working for the centre in a string of departments, each of them headed by an expert in the field.

There are technicians who test samples sent in from around the region, there are specialists analysing the genetic make-up of racing camels and horses and there are lots of actual animals, in particular horses and camels, that play a vital role in the centre's research.

The credit for the centre's transformation largely goes to administrative director Dr Ali Ridha and scientific director Dr Ulrich Wernery, 63, and his virologist wife Renate. Dr Wernery, who joined with his wife in 1987, said: "It was all desert here then.”

It is the diagnosis of disease that is the centre's main reason for being, Dr Wernery, a 63-year-old German, explained.

"That's our most important work. We are here to prevent diseases and to give reports so field veterinarians can treat according to the results.

"If a horse dies, for example, we do a full investigation, with tissues and organs going to different departments. In three to four days the results have to be given so that the vet knows how to treat the other animals to prevent the spread of any disease,” he said.

About 50 per cent of the centre's work is on camels, 20 per cent on horses and the rest on a huge range of animals, among them falcons, gazelles, snakes, fish, giraffe and even bees.

In camels, the centre might be looking for parasites such as mites and ticks, or stomach problems.

With horses, an important job is the testing of imported animals for the notifiable diseases that the authorities must be informed about.

"We are the only acknowledged laboratory in the region for import and export testing and every year we analyse 3,000 to 4,000 blood samples from horses. It took us four years to become accredited. Before this, the samples had to be sent abroad. Ireland, the United Kingdom and France acknowledge the laboratory,” Dr Wernery said.

Using sophisticated techniques in molecular biology, the laboratory offers same-day testing for many diseases. Samples come in from across the UAE, from other GCC states and from countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Morocco and Iran.

"If there are serious problems, our scientists get to travel to these countries to help,” he said. The centre has state-of-the-art techniques for checking the parentage of animals. "If there is a foal, the buyer wants to know if it is the offspring of particular parents.”

After all, a foal or a camel calf with a champion as a father is going to be worth a lot more than one sired by an also-ran.

Globe-trotting couple take on diseases
Dr Ulrich and Renate Wernery are a globe-trotting couple, having spent several years living outside their native Germany before coming to Dubai.

They were in Somalia for two years trying to eradicate two cattle diseases, one a bacterial condition called contagious pleuropneumonia, the other a viral ailment known as rinderpest. Their responsibility was to vaccinate the entire bovine population against these fatal diseases. "Somalia was like a text book for me. Even now, after more than 20 years, I can identify the diseases I saw there," Dr Wernery said.

After a stint in Germany, the Wernerys, who have two children, moved to Papua New Guinea where the focus was on pig and poultry diseases. In 1995 he was awarded Bundesverdienstkreuz, or Federal Cross of Merit, by the German government.

Project to treat grass sickness

The Central Veterinary Research Laboratory keeps dozens of camels for use in research programmes to develop new ways of diagnosing and treating animal and even human diseases.

Among the projects is one in which the camels are used to generate antibodies that could be used to test for or combat prostate cancer in men.

Camels are useful for this because, in response to foreign substances called antigens, they produce a particular type of antibody called a nanobody that is much smaller and more heat-resistant than the antibodies.

Dr Wernery also has a major research project, in collaboration with UK scientists, to find a cure for grass sickness, which kills hundreds of horses each year, including in the UK and Europe.

Grass imported from the UK is fed to horses at the centre so that, if one develops the disease, researchers can investigate the cause of the sickness, which destroys nerves in the animal's gut.

"It's something in the grass but we are not 100 per cent sure what. We know it is caused by toxins, but whether they come from the soil we don't know,” said Dr Wernery. (Gulf News)

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Camel's antibodies aid in cancer cure
posted on 16/04/2006

Scientists have found unique antibodies in camel's blood that led them to develop a successful treatment for colon cancer, a Belgian scientist involved in the research said here on Saturday. The finding has also led the research in developing a solution to diagnose infections, said Professor Serge Muyldermans, adding that it was a promising development that could lead to finding a cure for other diseases.

Prof Muyldermans, who is a researcher at the Department of Molecular and Cellular Interactions at Vrije University in Brussels, on Saturday read a research paper at the first Conference of the International Society of Camelids Research and Development in Al Ain. He told Gulf News camels and dromedaries, in particular, have unique antibodies in their blood. Dromedaries are camels with a single hump.

The research team has tested the antibodies on colon tumours in mice. "The result was a 100 per cent success," he said. He said the clinical tests of the medicine developed through the camel antibodies would be conducted later this year. "Discovery of these unnoticed antibodies was accidental as we were not actually doing research on camels," he said.

The already collected blood sample of an Arabian camel was used for the separation of antibodies simply because the students involved in the process had refused to kill a mouse or any other animal for the experiment, he said.

Unlike antibodies from other species these antibodies are devoid of light chains and are composed of a heavy chain dimer [a molecule made up of two simpler identical molecules]," he said. The antibodies are easily purified from serum and the researchers successfully raised an immune response in them.

Prof Muyldermans said the research on the antibody obtained from Arabian camel has also succeeded in developing a solution to diagnose infections or to treat diseases like cancer or trypanosomiase a disorder caused by infestation with a microscopic organism that lives as a parasite in the blood, especially sleeping sickness.

Organised by the College of Food and Agriculture, the conference is also supported by French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development, and The Hassan II Institute of Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine in Morocco.

Scientists, meanwhile, working on camelids research in different countries yesterday gathered here to pave the way for an International Society of Camelids Research and Development (Isocard).

The official announcement of the society would be made today, said Dr Ghaleb A. Al Hadrami, a senior faculty member at the College of Food and Agriculture of the UAE University, after the opening of the first conference of ISOCARD. The conference was opened by Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Chancellor of UAE University.

Speaking on the occasion he assured full support to the newly formed society the first global body of its kind. The society would have members from the countries with an interest in camel research and development. (Gulf News)

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International society for camel research to be set up in UAE
posted on 10/04/2006

An international society for the promotion of camel research and development is to be set up in the UAE, the UAE University announced yesterday. It will be the first global society in which countries with an interest in camel research and development will take part. Currently no such society exists and individual research efforts are carried out in different countries, said Dr Ghaleb A. Alhadrami, a senior faculty member at the College of Food and Agriculture of the UAE University.

"This is our idea and people from many countries have shown an interest in it," said Dr Alhadrami at a press conference to announce the first conference of the International Society of Camelids Research and Development (ISOCARD). The scientific family name for camels and llamas, all of which have feet with two toes and thick leathery soles, is camelid. The animal is already known for its dairy and meat production and small camelids are known for their high value wool.

Dr Alhadrami said societies for different animals existed in the world but no society had ever been formed to take care of research on camelids anywhere in the world. "We felt the need for a global platform for camelids since the camel is an important animal in the UAE and Arab world," he added.

The structure of the association and its objectives will be formally announced at ISOCARD's first conference being held at Al Ain Rotana Hotel from April 15 to 17, he said. The event will be inaugurated by Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Chancellor of UAE University.

Earlier, announcing the details of the conference, Dr Abdullah Al Khanbashi, Provost of UAE University, said: "The conference will provide an opportunity for all camelid scientists and specialists to exchange knowledge and update scientific information." He said more than 30 countries would participate in the conference. (Gulf News)

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