Beauty pageants, races spur demand for camel cloning in Dubai

Published September 13, 2021
SCIENTIFIC Director of the Reproductive Biotechnology Centre Dr Nisar Ahmad Wani examines a sample at his laboratory.—AFP
SCIENTIFIC Director of the Reproductive Biotechnology Centre Dr Nisar Ahmad Wani examines a sample at his laboratory.—AFP

DUBAI: Cloning is in high demand in the competitive world of camel beauty pageants, leaving scientists at a Dubai clinic working round the clock to produce carbon-copy beasts.

Not every animal is blessed with sought-after drooping lips and a tall, elegant neck, but technology now allows wealthy clients to replace their most beautiful camel with one just like it.

At the Reproductive Biotechnology Centre, with views of the UAE city’s towering skyscrapers, scientists pore over microscopes while dozens of cloned camels roam outside.

“We have so much demand for cloning camels that we are not able to keep up,” the centre’s scientific director Nisar Wani said.

Beauty pageants are not the only driver of the camel cloning industry. Many customers want to reproduce racing camels, or animals that produce large amounts of milk.

But “beauty queens” are the most popular order. Gulf clients will pay between 200,000 and 400,000 dirhams ($54,500-$109,000) to duplicate a dromedary.

The camels are paraded at dusty racetracks around the region and scrutinised by judges, with occasional discoveries of Botox and cosmetic fillers adding a spice of scandal to the high-stakes contests.

Saud Al-Otaibi, who runs a camel auction in Kuwait, said customers’ judgement of the animals’ looks is key to his business.

“The price of the camel is determined according to its beauty, health, and how well known the breed is,” he said.

When it comes to young animals, “customers are keen on seeing the mother to determine its beauty before buying the camel,” he added.

Twelve years ago, Dubai claimed the world’s first cloned camel.

Injaz, a female whose name means achievement in Arabic, was born on April 8, 2009, after more than five years of work by Wani and others. From the minute Injaz was born, there was no going back.

“We are now producing plenty, maybe more than 10 to 20 babies every year. This year we have 28 pregnancies (so far), last year we had 20,” he said with pride.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2021

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