ANIMAL rights campaigners have accused a Scots safari park of exploiting a rare camel by making him chase off a Land Rover.
Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS) has condemned the Highland Wildlife Park’s treatment of the only male Bactrian camel, Karnali, branding it a “repugnant publicity stunt”.
The park near Aviemore has come under fire for inviting photographers to picture Karnali “display his ownership” of the female camels by chasing off the park’s Land Rover.
Karnali is currently in mating season and has become extremely protective of the two female camels, Caramel and Khara, he shares an enclosure with.
CAPS are describing the treatment of the critically endangered animal as “unnecessary stress” and are demanding immediate action.
The park’s bosses insisted he would not be stressed by the event.
Director of CAPS, Liz Tyson, said: “To suggest that there is no problem because the camel ‘enjoys’ being goaded by having a car driven towards him in order to elicit an aggressive response is misguided, at best.”
She added: “To exploit the camel’s natural instinct to defend his mates against danger by turning it into a cheap sideshow for publicity is utterly unacceptable.”
The Highland Wildlife Park has explained that this situation is “completely normal” and that the camels have been living together in the park since 2009.
Head of living collections at the Highland Wildlife Park, Douglas Richardson, says criticism is “ill informed.”
He said: “The comments from CAPS are unfortunately ill-informed assumptions and it is important to note that at no time have they contacted the Highland Wildlife Park regarding their alleged concern for Karnali our male camel.
“His behaviour is the product of the natural seasonal territoriality of the male of the species and there is absolutely no indications that he is stressed by this.
“With high levels of testosterone running through him, as is normal, our male camel is predisposed to see-off perceived competition.
“If anything, the presence of our Park vehicles and his view that they may be trying to “steal” his females, allows him to express a natural behaviour that most male camels in zoos would not have an outlet for.
“Karnali actually lives in a large mixed species drive through reserve of 15 acres and it is his choice to interact with the Park vehicles that drive through on the road each day – the suggestion we drive a vehicle towards him is ludicrous.
“Organisations like CAPS regularly criticise zoos for what they see as circumstances that limit the range of a species behavioural repertoire.
“In the case of our male camel, their view that the keepers’ Land Rovers are stressing the animal appears to contradict their view that zoos limit what a species has evolved to do.”