Hundreds of camels die each year from ingesting plastic bags left behind in the desert, the UAE's top veterinarian said, calling on people to stop polluting the environment, press reports said on Thursday.
"Every day we have a camel that has died in a camel camp. One in every two camels dies from plastic," Dr. Ulrich Wernery, scientific director at the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory in Dubai told English-language daily Gulf News.
Rocks of calcified plastic weighing up to 60 kilograms are found in camel stomachs every day, said Wernery, whose clinic conducts hundreds of post-mortems on camels, gazelles, sheep and cows.
Wernery said the curious animals nibble on plastic bags that are thrown from car windows or dumped in the desert by campers and day-trippers.
The veteran animal doctor told Gulf News that the animals ingest plastic bags and ropes which then calcify in their stomach. The heavy rocks or balls fill up the stomach and make it impossible for the animals to eat, causing them to eventually die of starvation.
"Camel calves are the worst affected because they are so curious," he added.
Calling for an end to the "fatal pollution," Wernery said residents must stop polluting the desert with plastic.
"I've been here for twenty years and first noticed this about fifteen years ago," said Wernery, adding that the situation is getting worse by the year.
Wernery said he was shocked after a recent visit to a desert area in the northern UAE emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, where owners had dumped the bodies of animals that had died from plastic ingestion.
"I counted more than 30 carcasses and I named the place 'Death Valley'," he said.