Thousands of Qatari camels being deported from Saudi Arabia are trapped at the border as the Gulf diplomatic crisis hits the region’s most famous livestock.
The dromedaries, icons of the desert, are farmed for their milk, meat, fur and hide – not to mention their strength and usefulness as a working animal on farms.
But Qatari officials are having to step in to build emergency shelters on their side of the border as the humped ungulates get caught up in the geopolitical row between Riyadh and Doha, with several camels dying of thirst in the scorching conditions at the frontier.
After cutting all diplomatic relations with Qatar and closing its only land border earlier this month, Saudi Arabia gave Qatari citizens and residents 14 days to leave the country and move back to Qatar.
This has forced many Qatari farm owners, who keep their cattle in Saudi Arabia during winter months for grazing and breeding, to try to shift the animals back across the border.
But with highly restricted border opening hours, only a few hundred can cross each day, and animals stranded at the closed border are dying of thirst or untreated injuries.
The emergency shelter, on the Qatari side of the border, is equipped with water tanks and life-saving food for the camels and sheep that have made it across so far.
At least 25,000 camels and sheep are understood to have broken the blockade, returning safely into Qatar – but thousands more are expected at the border in the coming days.
Doha’s Ministry of Municipality and Environment has also set up a team of drivers, animal experts and other staff to help camel owners.
Videos and photos posted on social media showing huge caravans of camels crossing the desert border have sparked outrage.
They accused Qatar of allegedly supporting and funding “terrorism” and working with regional rival Iran – charges Doha vehemently denies.
The decision has disrupted trade, split families and raised fears of military confrontation in the Gulf region.
|An emaciated camel receives some of the emergency supplies delivered by Doha [The New Arab]|
|This camel was part-way through giving birth when she succumbed to the harsh conditions [The New Arab]|
|Her calf did not survive the ordeal of birth [The New Arab]|
On 5 June, Saudi Arabia and allied states cut all ties with Qatar, closing its only land border, banning planes from their airspace and barring Qatari nationals from passing through their airports.