Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Of Note: Robotic Camel Jockeys

After being accused of human rights violations for using children as camel jockeys, Gulf Arab officials have unveiled the robotic camel jockey in an attempt to "bring order to the national sport" of camel racing:

The US State Department and human rights groups have raised the alarm over the exploitation of children by traffickers who pay impoverished parents a paltry sum or simply resort to kidnapping their victims.

The children, mostly from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or Pakistan, are then smuggled into the oil-rich Gulf states. They are often starved by employers to keep them light and maximize their racing potential. Mounting camels three times their height, the children - some as young as six - face the risk of being thrown off or trampled ... [a] Swiss company was paid around $1.37 million to produce the robots, which will cost just under $5,500 apiece ... Qatar's main camel race carries a prize of more than 190,000 dollars, 10 percent of which goes to the parent or guardian of the jockey, who also gets a monthly salary of up to 400 dollars.

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