Ulrich Wernery1, Renate Wernery1, David Wernery1, Amy Lusher2,
Marcus Eriksen3 and Mia Nixon3
315 Gyres Institute, 3131 Olympic Blvd #302, Santa Monica, CA, 90404, USA, 2Norwegian Institute for
Water Research (NIVA), Oslo, Norway, 1Central Veterinary Research Laboratory, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Ecological impacts of widespread, plastic pollution and subsequent ingestion of anthropogenic waste,primarily plastic bags and ropes by dromedary camels (Camelus dromedarius) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and across the Arabian Peninsula is reported here. The ingested waste is turned into a collection of tightly packed indigestible materials which can include plastics, ropes, other litter and salt deposits trapped in the stomach or digestive tract forming a large stone-like mass termed as plastic gastroliths or polybezoars. Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL), Dubai, UAE evaluated more than 30,000 camels since 2008, there have been 300 documented deaths contributed to polybezoars in the stomach. Here, we analyse a subset of five gastroliths extracted from dessicated camel skeletons found in the desert, weighing from 6.2-53.6 kg. Two random samples of anthropogenic material, primarily plastic bags and synthetic ropes, from each of these five polybezoars were analysed for polymer content, showing predominantly polyethylene and polypropylene. Gastrointestinal blockages were caused by these polybezoars, leading to sepsis from multiplying populations of gut anaerobes, and dehydration and malnutrition due to limited available space for food and water in the gut, which leads to a false sense of satiation. The frequency of these impacts result in a population-level effect of an estimated 1% mortality rate for camels living in the region. The force of high winds and the open desert environment possibly lead to escape of plastic bags and other thin, film-like packaging easily force open waste bins and landfills, travelling long distances from waste management services, therefore, alternative systems are urgently required for package and deliver goods to replace plastic bags throughout the region of Arabian peninsula.
Key words: Arabian peninsula, dromedary camel, gastroliths, plastic pollution, polybezoar, UAE