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3D technology and techniques designed to monitor elite athletes are being used by students at the United Arab Emirates University, UAEU, to develop an early-warning system that could save the lives of camels. The "Camel Body Language Reader" is the brainchild of a team of four undergraduates at the UAEU, and is designed to be a tool for camel farmers to quickly detect whether their animals are suffering from health problems that could prove fatal.



The system sees 3D cameras being positioned around enclosures on camel farms, and specially-adapted software – which was originally designed for training Olympic athletes – and keeps a watch on the behaviour of the animals. By tracking and monitoring the movements of the camel, the students aim to amass a huge and comprehensive bank of data about their habits and lifestyles, and gain an understanding of how they feel. This insight will allow signs of illness to be picked up at an early stage, so that preventive measures can be taken.



Alaa Adam Hussein Haroon, one of the students developing the behavioural reader, explained that this database is ultimately intended to be so all-encompassing that camel farmers will be able to use it to reduce animal losses.



The idea came when a family friend bought, at a considerable expense, a camel from Sudan with the goal of entering it into the races. "When the camel came to the UAE, people felt it was not coping, but they couldn’t understand what was wrong, and it died. That was a waste of life, time, and money," said Ala.



Other students behind this project include Ayesha Al Yammahi, Mouza Al Ahbabi and Maythaa Al Ghefli, Emirati junior students in the Information Security Department, College of Information Technology.



The students hope that by tracking the camel movements the data will help them draw conclusions on how camels feel. They believe that once the database is large enough, the information will be invaluable for camel farmers.



"The motivation behind this project, was our desire to understand camels and how they behave on a deeper level," said Alaa. "One of the reasons was the death of camels after a race, although they seem healthy before racing. This is not just due to exhaustion; it might be related to their mood and behaviour.



"We want to set up a device that tells the condition of the camel by just monitoring their behaviour and body language, and the final judgement would be something like ‘the camel is happy, or sad, or angry’ so that we do not need a camel expert with 20 years of experience.



"The process is a bit long but after collecting enough data and building our database, this can help on so many different levels. In this era data is basically money; you can use it to discover patterns and link things together. We are hoping we will be able to learn new thing about camel's behaviour through that and even generalise our results to other animals such as horses," he explained.



The technology is being developed in an apt location, due to camels being part of the historical, cultural, and social fabric of the UAE. The country has one of the world’s largest densities of camels with an estimated total of 380,000, and the animals are commonly used for racing during the winter months.



Healthy camels are expected to live for 40 to 50 years, and their resilience is demonstrated by the fact that they can withstand temperatures that would be lethal to other animals and retain much more water than other livestock. However, they are still susceptible to numerous parasitic diseases and infestations, which some studies claim have been exacerbated by changes in modern farming practices.




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