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UAE: 50% of camel deaths and record number of turtles dying due to plastic consumption

February 9, 2022 at 1:40 pm

Camels drink water in Ras al-Khaimah desert in the UAE on 31 October 2019 [GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images]

Shocking statistics released by the Executive Council of Dubai on Monday have revealed that 50 per cent of camel deaths in the UAE are caused by consumption of plastic bags. The figures were announced as the country has introduced a policy limiting the use of single-use bags, with fees of 25 fils being made applicable from 1 July. A complete ban is to be implemented in two years, as the UAE confronts its environmental issues.

According to a study carried out by the UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment in the 90s, one in two camels died as a result of swallowing plastic bags and choking. Last year, research found that hundreds of camels have died in the UAE due to plastic ingestion over the past decade. Of 30,000 camels analysed since 2008 by Dubai’s Central Veterinary Research Laboratory, about 300 died because of polybezoars – lumps of indigestible material made of plastic.

This equated to about one in 100 camel deaths in the UAE due to the consumption of plastic waste left behind by humans, either camping or generally littering. It takes around 400 years for plastic bags to decompose and thousands of years to mitigate their impact on the environment.

The Council also said that a record number of turtles, some 86 per cent, have been found dead off the country’s shores, having consumed plastic materials. Last week, Fadi Yaghmour, a marine expert who has studied some 200 turtles for the region’s first research on the subject told AP that plastic clogs turtles’ intestinal tracts, can cause them to be malnourished or even starve to death.

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Yaghmour and his team of researchers have published a new study in the Marine Pollution Bulletin and have found that 75 per cent of all dead green turtles and 57 per cent of all loggerhead turtles in the Emirate of Sharjah had eaten marine debris, which includes plastic bags and bottle caps.

“When the majority of sea turtles have plastics in their bodies, you know you have a significant problem,” Yaghmour said. “If there’s ever a time to care about turtles, it is now.”