1. Home
  2. Sport, Entertainment and Work
  3. Other Animals
  4. What is the RSPCA’s view on camel tour rides?

What is the RSPCA’s view on camel tour rides?

The way in which wild camels are used for riding tours can pose many welfare risks, including confinement which may prevent camels from expressing important natural behaviours. The RSPCA is particularly concerned about the capture of animals from the wild to be used in this way due to the risk of pain, injury or distress, particularly with the seizure, transport, handling, training and long-term confinement of these animals.

Camel welfare

Camels are smart, confident animals who have excellent memories and are unique in that they have adapted to survive in very hot, dry conditions. They are used in many countries for various purposes including for carrying loads, transporting people, racing, providing meat, milk, wool and leather, and for tourism purposes. In Australia, camel meat and milk are sold and a number of operators, mainly located in northern Australia, offer camel rides to tourists.

In the past there has been limited research on the welfare of camels, but it would appear that more studies are being conducted, including developing parameters to assess the welfare of camels reared in intensive and semi-intensive systems [1,2]. Using the Five Domains Model [1] to help assess animal welfare, camels need to be provided with adequate and appropriate food and water to maintain good body condition, suitable yarding that is comfortable and safe, good health care to prevent and promptly treat diseases or injuries and suitable handling and appropriate husbandry to enable camels to express their natural behaviours.

What are the risks to camels used for camel rides?

Many camels used for tourist rides are captured from the wild. This involves mustering, yarding, loading and trucking which can cause fear and distress as these animals are not accustomed to being handled, confined or transported [4]. By using low stress animal handling methods, these negative animal welfare impacts can be reduced but are unlikely to be eliminated.

Upon arrival, the camels will be offloaded and placed into yards, which will be unfamiliar to them. Handling wild animals poses risks to humans and some methods of restraint are inhumane. These include the use of tethers (where a rope which is attached to an animal and an immovable object, limiting walking to a defined area) and hobbles (where a rope or strap which is used to tie two legs together, allowing the animal to stand and only move a short distance) to restrict movement, which can cause injury if applied too tightly. Confining a wild animal using physical restraint can be very distressing, especially when they are confronted with an unfamiliar and threatening environment.

To assist with handling, some operators may use nose pegs. This involves forcing a peg (often made of wood with a pointy end) through the soft tissue of the nose or upper lip. This is a painful procedure and should only be performed by a veterinarian using appropriate sedation, anaesthesia and pain relief. Ongoing use of the nose peg to control camels is also painful. Some operators do not use nose pegs but instead choose to train their camels using humane techniques whereby good trust and control can be achieved by skilled handlers. The RSPCA considers that the use of nose pegs is not justified especially as it causes unnecessary harm and there are more humane alternatives to handle camels.

Many tourism operators are located in northern Australia where weather conditions can be extreme. Despite camels being evolved to live in desert conditions, it is essential that their enclosures are provided with shade, particularly where temperatures above 40°C occur. A study has shown that in extreme heat, camels will seek shade and during very hot conditions and where there is limited space in group yards, some camels will show abnormal behaviours indicative of stress [5].

Another significant welfare risk relates to overworking, where camels can be forced to carry a heavy weight and for prolonged periods. This is inhumane. However, it is difficult for government regulators to monitor especially in relation to camels not being rested sufficiently as it is difficult to verify records for individual camels in relation to ride and rest schedules.

Are there animal welfare standards for camels?

The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – The Camel, which was developed as a national code 18 years ago, is now outdated and does not contain sufficient detail relating to the care and husbandry of camels used for rides. Furthermore, this code is not mandatory and so tour operators are not compelled to comply with these requirements. The RSPCA advocates that specific welfare standards and guidelines for camel tour operators are developed as a matter of urgency to ensure the welfare of camels used for this purpose are safeguarded and which are regulated under animal welfare legislation. In addition, regular and comprehensive inspections of camel tour operators must be carried out by government regulators to ensure compliance with mandatory welfare standards.

What can you do?

Tourists, both overseas and Australian, often consider a camel ride whilst on holiday. However, it is difficult to know how well tour operators care for their camels. Those considering a camel ride are urged to find out as much as possible and to ask the operator questions before making a booking (e.g. if nose pegs are used, are there weight limits etc). In situations where there are concerns about the welfare of animals, the state/territory government regulator who is responsible for enforcing animal welfare standards should be contacted as soon as possible.


[1] Padalino B, Menchetti L (2021) The first protocol for assessing welfare of camels. Frontiers of Veterinary Science, 7.

[2] Menchetti L, Faye B, Padalino B (2021) New animal-based measures to assess welfare in dromedary camels. Tropical Animal Health and Production 53:533.

[3] Mellor DJ (2016) Updating animal welfare thinking: Moving beyond the “five freedoms” towards “A life worth living”. Animals, 6, 21.

[4] Baghshani H, Nazifi S (2010) Physiological response of dromedary camels to road transportation in relation to circulating levels of cortisol, thyroid hormones and some serum biochemical parameters. Tropical Animal Health and Production, 42:55-63.

[5] Zappaterra M, Menchetti L, Nanni Costa L, Padalino B (2021) Do camels (Camelus dromedarius) need shaded areas? A case study of the camel market in Doha. Animals, 11, 480.

Also Read

Updated on February 27, 2024
  • Home
  • Sport, Entertainment and Work
  • Other Animals

Was this article helpful?