REPTILE collector, camel expert, big-cat doctor, gazelle wrangler, antiques aficionado, father of five: Alex Tinson juggles disparate roles in balancing his career as a veterinarian and researcher with his pride in heading up a happily blended Australian-Emirati family.
Raised on Sydney’s North Shore watching Daktari on TV and reading zookeeper Gerald Durrell’s books, Tinson studied in Melbourne and gained his early vet experience at Bacchus Marsh and Tweed Heads.
While overseeing a Bicentennial camel race across the Outback in 1988 he was approached by a representative of the United Arab Emirates’ ruling family. Within weeks Tinson had relocated to Abu Dhabi and from there to the remote oasis town of Al Ain to hone the crown prince’s stable of racing camels. There he found animals developed over generations to weigh less than a fine-boned Thoroughbred horse. The Melbourne Cup might stop Australia but throughout the oil-rich Gulf countries it’s camel racing that dominates.
Tinson’s story is ripe with exhilarating highs (the births of the world’s first embryo-transfer and frozen-embryo camel calves; a slashing of race speeds by 30 per cent; the advent of the camel ‘beauty’ show) and devastating lows (most notably, losing two babies to sudden infant death syndrome). He details the fervour with which he has pursued the most coveted trophy in the billion-dollar sport of camel racing: the Golden Sword.
Tinson writes candidly of his successes and failures, both professionally and as a husband, son and father. Tinson also delves into the psyche of Bedouin Arab culture: the importance of tradition, the loyalty to family and the laid-back “it’s God’s will” attitude that so surprises many Westerners.
His passion for camels – the animal that has fuelled his life in the Middle East and allowed him to pursue groundbreaking breeding projects in Western Australia, Mongolia, Pakistan and India – is obvious at every stage.