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'Mystery ailment' smites Saudi camels

Hundreds dead

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A "mystery ailment" last week claimed the lives of over 200 camels in Saudi Arabia's Dawasir Valley, Reuters reports.

The agriculture ministry confirmed the deaths of 232 animals over four days, although owners say the real figure is much higher. Officials dismissed an infectious disease as the cause, fingering "animal feed supplied by food storage authorities".

Owners are unconvinced. Breeder Hamad al-Harthy said: "The disease has to be limited to one place to prevent it spreading and then they have to find a serum."

Camel trader Turki Abdelaziz admitted: "They need to bring in help from abroad to find a solution."

Saudi's King Abdullah has promised compensation for affected owners, which could cost a pretty penny since Bedouin tribes trade camels for thousands of dollars a pop. They're commonly used for racing or, if they fail to measure up in the cameline Red Rum department, are "prized" as meat. ®

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