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FOREWORD - Australian Camel

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FOREWORD - Australian Camel

    Australian Camel Racing

    Assessing International Competitiveness

A report for the Rural Industries Research

    and Development Corporation

    by George R Wilson

October 1999

RIRDC Publication No 99/120

    RIRDC Project No AWC-1A

    ? 1999 Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. All rights reserved.

ISBN 0 642 57983 0

    ISSN 1440-6845

    Australian camel racing assessing international competitiveness Publication no 99/120

    Project no. AWC-1a

The views expressed and the conclusions reached in this publication are those of the author and not

    necessarily those of persons consulted. RIRDC shall not be responsible in any way whatsoever to any

    person who relies in whole or in part on the contents of this report.

This publication is copyright. However, RIRDC encourages wide dissemination of its research, providing the

    Corporation is clearly acknowledged. For any other enquiries concerning reproduction, contact the

    Publications Manager on phone 02 6272 3186.

Researcher Contact Details

    Dr George R Wilson

    Resource Management and Conservation Services

    51 Stonehaven Cres, Deakin 2600 ACT

    Phone 02 62812160,

    Fax 02 6285 1195

    Email: gwilson@ awt.com.au

    Internet http://www.awt.com.au/awcs

RIRDC Contact Details

    Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation Level 1, AMA House

    42 Macquarie Street

    BARTON ACT 2600

    PO Box 4776

    KINGSTON ACT 2604

    Phone: 02 6272 4539

    Fax: 02 6272 5877

    Email: rirdc@rirdc.gov.au

    Website: http://www.rirdc.gov.au

Published in October 1999

    Printed on environmentally friendly paper by Canprint

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FOREWORD

    Until recently, the emerging camel industry had a particular focus in central and South Australia and in developing products such as meat, skins and fibre. Camel races were primarily novelty events held for charity in conjunction with tourist festivals. They were conducted over short distances only.

    In the last few years, camel racing has expanded rapidly beyond central Australia. There is a now a more professional circuit or races and entrepreneurs interested in a long-term perspective that links to overseas standards.

    This study builds on the work and vision of the central Australian initiatives. It re-examines the scope and potential for the camel racing industry in the light of the recent important developments, the interest shown by major sponsors, and the welcome support of the government of the United Arab Emirates.

    The result is a report that hopefully will contribute to a realisation of the opportunities for development of camel racing in Australia and encourage an emerging rural industry.

    This report, a new addition to RIRDC’s diverse range of almost 400 research publications, forms part of our New Animal Products R&D program, which aims to accelerate the development of viable new animal industries.

    Most of our publications are available for viewing, downloading or purchasing online through our website:

     downloads at www.rirdc.gov.au/reports/Index.htm

     purchases at www.rirdc.gov.au/pub/cat/contents.html

Peter Core

    Managing Director

    Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation

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Acknowledgments

    Many people provided information for this project including Mr Paul Hansen , Mr Paddy McHugh who initiated camel races at Boulia in Queensland, Mr Philip Gee whose scholarly newsletter Australian Camel News is the communications vehicle for what would otherwise be a very divided and disparate community, and Kevin and Maria Handley who have been the prime movers behind the Australian Camel Racing Association.

    Others who provided there time and considered the issues are Dr Geoff Manefield, Dr Alex Tinson, Dr Geoff Ryan, Dr Peter McInnes, Dr Taffy Williams, Noel Fullerton Peter Siedel, John Reid, Dr Tom Bergin and Sgt Shorty Smith. Other contacts who made an input include His Excellency the Ambassador from the United Arab Emirates, Dr Doug Clure, Professor Reuben Rose, and Dr Bernard Robinson.

    Dr George C Wilson made helpful comments on an early draft of the manuscipt.

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Contents

    FOREWORD ............................................................................................................III ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ......................................................................................... IV EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ……………………………………………………..…………VI

    INTRODUCTION ..................................................................................................... 1 Setting the Scene .................................................................................................................1

    Objectives ............................................................................................................................2

    Methodology .......................................................................................................................2

CAMEL RACING AN EMERGING SPORT ........................................................... 3

    History of the introduction of camels to Australia.................................................................3 Camel racing in Australia .....................................................................................................3

    Australian camel organisations .............................................................................................7 International camels racing and organisations ..................................................................... 11

    DISCUSSION ......................................................................................................... 14 Issues................................................................................................................................. 14

    How do Australian camels rate? ......................................................................................... 17

    IMPLICATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS.................................................................. 22

    RECOMMENDATIONS .......................................................................................... 24

    REFERENCES....................................................................................................... 25

    APPENDICES ........................................................................................................ 27

    RIRDC PUBLICATIONS ........................................................................................ 33

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Executive Summary

    Over the years, speculation has held that Australia's wild camel population was a resource from which animals capable of winning international races could be identified. The present project has re-examined those aspirations and concluded that Australian camels, in the main, are not of international race winning stock at this stage. Overseas, selection for fast animals has been practised for many years, even centuries. Lately high technology has been adopted to improve all aspects of the process, from reproduction to training and preparation. The breeding programs and training regimes in leading Camel racing countries such as United Arab Emirates are superior. Ironically Australian veterinary and other expertise has played a significant part in improving Camel racing in those countries in recent years. Contributions have come from both advanced embryo technology and research on exercise physiology.

    Although Australian camels cannot compete given the current stage of development of the industry, the potential for enhancing Australian involvement in Camel racing both internationally and domestically is significant. Australia has a suitable environment, knowledge of camel husbandry, outback interest and cultural connection with camels, plus entrepreneurs ready to stimulate further economic activity.

    Unfortunately a number of fragmented approaches to the industry are emerging and divisions are widening. Without coordinating effort these rifts could seriously impede and permanently damage the realisation of the Australian potential.

    The introduction of new genetic stock from racing animals overseas has been proposed and the disease risks are currently under consideration by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service. Some sections of the camel racing industry fear that imported bloodlines would be so superior that they would effectively put an end to the current race competition. A thoroughly planned approach, including the international connections, is the only way to bring the full benefits of a vigorous racing scene to the whole industry. It would show how the support that is available from the overseas agencies and Australian sources could be used to maximum benefit. RIRDC should encourage all groups in the camel industry to support the preparation of a draft strategic business plan and a conference to discuss it.

    A comprehensive resource review or background paper is needed that elaborates on the material in this short report. It would describe the economic and development potential of the industry, the constraints which are limiting Australian camel racing nationally and internationally, sources of support which are available from government programs and camel industry research needs. It would outline organisational arrangements for animal registration, identification of national champions, and the creation of a Studbook. It would set out a time frame and plan a process to enable greater Australian involvement and integration with the Arab camel racing, including the possibility of reciprocal racing of Australian camels in Arab countries. The process would conclude with draft strategy - a clear description of the strategic steps to make this potentially lucrative entertainment an emerging rural industry.

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Introduction

    Setting the Scene

    Racing camels in Australia goes back many years and in the last century events were conducted regularly in pastoral districts. However they were held more as novelty and picnic event in outback towns and none were taken very seriously. In March 1971 the first Alice Springs camel races were conducted. Since then camel racing in Australia, whilst certainly not a mainstream sport, has been growing steadily. Today there is an annual camel racing circuit and many regional centres in the southeast have joined in. Several initiatives that are described below, are under way to establish a professional long-term focus that links to overseas standards. However there is an urgent need for effective coordination of these initiatives to consolidate progress.

    Under the auspices of the Australian Camel Racing Association, at least 7 race meetings are scheduled for 1999 in South Australia, Victoria and NSW. The connection with the outback has not been lost however. The established races in Alice Springs continue, together with others such as the Desert Sands at Boulia and the Great Matilda Camel Race at Charleville under the auspices of the Queensland Camel Racing Corporation.

    For many years camel breeders and owners have noted that some Australian camels can go quite fast. Noel Fullerton has trained and selected some which have reached quite good speeds over 5 km. Others, including Paddy McHugh and Paul Hansen believe that the wild camels contain the genetic diversity to produce internationally competitive animals. Some attempts have been made to compare Australian and Arabian camels but have not been very successful in spite of the hospitality of the hosts. In the early 1990’s a contingent of camels was trained in Australia and taken to the UAE but the result was disappointing. One camel suffered an injury in transit and was unable to race. Others succumbed to diarrhoea and nasal infections, which could have been due to the stress of transit or exposure to new infections. The camels were not accustomed to racing in such large groups. Australian races usually have 5 or 6 camels over short distances, in the UAE races with 25 are not uncommon over distances of up to 10 km. Further research and preparation is needed including support and advice from UAE before mounting such an expedition again.

    Recently there has been interest in supplementing Australian blood stock resources with introduced genetic material. The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) is currently reviewing protocols for the import of camels from the United Arab Emirates.

    The United Arab Emirates has also supported race meetings in Australia.

    Figure 1 The UAE Ambassador at The present study is a brief preliminary examination of some of the issues the Leeton camel races 1998 facing the camel racing industry. It complements other studies and

    proposals for camel industry development which have focused on the camel as a meat and fibre producer. A subsequent report would detail how Australia might become more serious about camel racing, training, breeding and husbandry. It would indicate the opportunities for the application of new technology and management regimes for training

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    and disease control. This study concludes that coordinated planning of the camel racing industry is warranted.

    Objectives

     To briefly review camel races in Australia, their organisation, prize money and times

    over distances, compared with overseas racing and

     To identify opportunities and constraints upon further development.

    Methodology

    The study has been conducted by interviewing a sample of participants in the Australian camel racing industry both in person and by phone. Discussions were held with breeders, trainers, veterinarians, race promoters and researchers. Contact was established with overseas camel racing experts and authorities. Their views and advice have enabled a brief analysis of current Australian and overseas camel racing, its organisation and prize money. The study has compared Australian and Arabian camels, including their physiognomy, times over distances, potential for training, selecting bloodlines and enhancing performance. It has examined the constraints which are limiting Australian involvement in the racing industry. Recommendations for furthering Australian camel racing and creating links to international sources conclude the report.

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Camel racing an emerging sport

    History of the introduction of camels to Australia

    Camels (Camelus dromedarius) were first brought to Australia in small numbers in the 1840s and importations continued until 1907. As demand increased, between 10,000 and 20,000 were imported. They were introduced primarily for draught and transport, and used particularly in the exploration and development of the arid zone. Between 1850 and 1920 they became the primary mode of transport for supplies to settlements and stations. When new methods of transport and motor vehicles became more popular, camels became redundant. Many were released or escaped and formed the basis of the feral camel population present today.

    Current distribution

    Today Australia has the largest feral camel population in the world. Camels are widely but patchily distributed through much of the arid zone. A national study of camel distribution, Short et al (1988), obtained data from aerial survey which indicated that camels occur in a wide band between Port Hedland (Western Australia) and Innamincka (South Australia). A number of discrete populations were identified with the highest densities being recorded in the Simpson and Great Sandy Deserts. Distribution from Wilson et al 1992 is shown in Figure 2

    Extrapolation of results of aerial and other surveys gives an estimate of a total population of 150000 -200000. The total area of their distribution is approximately two million square kilometres. The average density is therefore about one camel per 15square kilometres. Camel racing in Australia

    The popularity of camel racing has been steadily growing. Camel races held in Albury in April 1996 attracted a crowd of over 3,000 people. Staged again at the same venue in 1997, over 10,000 people attended indicating the rising popularity of the sport. Since then, a circuit of races has emerged with growing prize money on professional tracks. Major commercial sponsors are becoming involved and the Government of the UAE has used the racing circuit as part of its cultural and goodwill program. Details are outlined in Table 2 The Alice Springs race meeting remains the most widely publicised event but it continues as a charity fund raiser.

    A significant event of the 1998 calendar, was the staging of camel races at Royal Randwick Racecourse on Sunday August 23 1998. With over 20,000 people to witness the spectacle it was reported as the 3rd largest crowd to attend a metropolitan track in 1998. Prizes valued at $15,000 were on offer for the jockeys. The program included the Sheikh Zayed Cup valued at $35,000 and prize money to the value of $100,000 was shared by owners and jockeys. The times for winners are shown in Table 1.

    Figure 2 Distribution of camels in Australia

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Figure 4 Preparing for Randwick races

Figure 3 Winners returning at Randwick

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