The Curious Case of Gaddafi’s Camels

Gaddafi’s camel

Originally uploaded by mosilager

One of the strangest tales I have heard in my time here is the story of how the nation of Zambia ended up with 4 rather sad looking camels sitting in Mundawanga Zoo just outside Lusaka.

Back in 2008, after recently appointing himself King of African Kings, and in a fit of suitable statesmanship,  General Muammar al-Gadaffi decided to present the then Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa with the gift of five camels – four females and a bull, presumably to allow for a whole herd of the creatures to be bred.

The story goes that the Zambian President’s office received all of about 24 hours to prepare for the arrival of this unexpected gift and had to hurriedly prepare a delegation of vets and suitable dignitaries to meet them off their plane. Tragically as soon as the cargo doors were opened the bull camel dropped dead on the tarmac and so the President officially only received 4 female camels.

Perhaps a little daunted by the responsibilities of his new charges, President Mwanawasa declared them to be a gift to the whole nation. Not to be put off by the challenges of keeping desert animals in a tropical country located at altitude with a very significant rainy season, he  urged the Zambian Wildlife Authority  “to challenge you the minister through your wildlife experts to ensure that these animals are well looked after so that they quickly adapt to the new environment and start producing.”

With true Zambian politeness and positivity, the Minister responded that “We will keep them well and ensure that we can have more camels in Zambia so that in future we can also distribute them to some of our National Parks.” At some point after the ceremony, one supposes that there were some rather  heated discussions amongst the Authority’s staff regarding the practicalities of releasing camels into National Parks filled with lions and maybe the minister should avoid making commitments he couldn’t keep etc. etc.

In any event, the poor creatures never made it to any National Park and today Colonel Gaddaffi’s grand gift to the Zambian people sit rather forlornly in a zoo outside the city, slowly loosing the hair and bracing themselves for an inevitable sad demise.


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