Saudi Arabian authorities have conducted their biggest campaign against camel beauty contestants receiving Botox injections and other artificial touch-ups, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported on December, 8. Cosmetic alterations to make the animals more attractive are strictly prohibited in the country.
More than 40 camels have been disqualified from the annual King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, which started this month and invites breeders of the most beautiful camels to compete for $66 million in prize money, The National News reports.
Botox injections, facelifts and cosmetic alterations to make the camels more attractive are strictly prohibited. Jurors decide on the winner based on the shape of the animals’ heads, necks, humps, dress and postures.
Judges at the month-long festival in the desert north-east Riyadh are tightening their clampdown on artificially enhanced camels, the official news agency reported, using “specialized and advanced” technology to detect tampering.
Authorities have already discovered dozens of breeders had stretched out the lips and noses of camels, used hormones to boost their muscles, injected animals’ heads and lips with Botox to make them bigger, inflated body parts with rubber bands and used fillers to relax their faces.
The SPA report said: “The club is keen to halt all acts of tampering and deception in the beautification of camels,” and that organizers would “impose strict penalties on manipulators”.
The beauty pageant is the centerpiece of the popular carnival, which also features camel races, sales and other festivities typically involving thousands of dromedaries.
The extravaganza seeks to preserve the camel’s role in the kingdom’s Bedouin tradition and heritage, even as the oil-rich country forges ahead with modernization.
Camel breeding is a multimillion-dollar industry and similar events take place across the region.
Organizers of the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival have carried out the biggest bust of Botox cheats in the event’s six-edition history, according to the official SPA news agency, Al Arabiya states.
At least 43 participants were found to have artificially tampered with the appearance of camels in various ways, including injecting Botox into their lips.
Other manipulation methods included using rubber bands to distort body parts, and using gel implants.
The stakes are high, as competition winners can take home a total of $66 million (250 million Saudi riyal) in prize money, and private sales can fetch millions of dollars.
Saudi Arabia’s Camel Club, which organized the event, uses a host of high-tech methods to judge the competitors.
Camels are inspected visually for desirable traits, including gait and physical proportions before undergoing x-rays, ultrasound tests, and genetic analysis.
The Camel Club said that the high number of violators found is evidence of the “strength and strictness” of fighting tampering.
A number of camel beauty pageants have sprung up in Gulf countries in recent years, including the Al Dhafra Festival in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
The contests pay tribute to the traditional Bedouin heritage of the Gulf, which placed a high level of importance on the desert-dwelling dromedaries.
The King Abdulaziz Camel Festival is billed as the world’s largest and began on December 1. The jury members evaluate the shape of the head, neck, humps, outfit and even posture of animals.
The festival takes place on a 32 square kilometer area around 100 kilometers northeast of the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Claims of Botox tampering have marred the festival since at least 2018.
Read here how Sudan’s tribes transformed their camel business to keep Gulf buyers.