Locals in a town in southern Kazakhstan sacrificed a white camel in a bid to end a suicide epidemic blamed on an evil spirit. Some 200 residents of the town of Karabulak, which has a population of some 40,000, attended the sacrifice ceremony.
The white camel was slaughtered on advice from the village elders some time after two middle school students hanged themselves. Three more teenagers were recently prevented from committing suicide at the last moment, and dozens more sought help of the imams of the local mosque.
The total death toll from suicides in 2011 in the town stood at 14, most of them adolescent boys. The surviving boys said they saw a vision of an old man clad in white who told them life is pointless and showed them a rope around his neck, imam Abdurrafi Rakhmatullayev said. “That was the Devil in human guise,” Rakhmatullayev said.
A similar incident took place in Karabulak 60 years ago, but the suicides were ended after one of the elders, or aqsaqals, advised a white camel sacrifice, town head Alimzhan Nishankulov said.
In the 1950s, Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union, but Nishankulov did not elaborate on what the Communist Party, notorious for its militant atheism, said about the ritual. No suicide attempts were reported in Karabulak after this week’s sacrifice.
Princess is the star of New Jersey’s Popcorn Park Zoo and she has correctly picked the winner of five of the last six Super Bowls.
She went 14 and 6 predicting regular season and playoff games this year, and has a lifetime record of 88-51.
The Bactrian camel’s prognostication skills flow from her love of graham crackers. Zoo general manager John Bergmann places a cracker and writes the name of the competing teams on each hand. Whichever hand Princess nibbles from is her pick.
On Wednesday, she made her pick with no hesitation at all, predicting bad news for Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, even though the Las Vegas oddsmakers have New England favored by about 3 points.
Her only miscue in the big game was picking the Indianapolis Colts over the New Orleans Saints two years ago, indicating that even camels know it’s generally risky to go against Peyton Manning.
“It started out when a local radio station was looking to have some fun, so they asked Princess who was going to win a particular game each week, and it just took off from there,” Bergmann said. “Now we have guys calling up on Sunday morning wanting to know who Princess has picked that week. One guy even asked if she does lottery numbers.”
Her best season was 2008, when she got 17 out of 22 games right, including correctly picking the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the Super Bowl.
Princess doesn’t do point spreads. But she has nearly mastered the art of picking straight-up winners.
The cunning camel was once the personal pet of heiress Doris Duke, the only child of tobacco and electric energy tycoon James Buchanan Duke.
Doris Duke raised Princess and her sister Babe from youngsters, Bergmann said.
The pair of camels had their own barn, and spent summers at Duke’s Rhode Island estate. During bad weather, they were put up in the solarium.
After Duke’s death in 1993, the camels stayed on her estate in Hillsborough. Babe died several years ago, leaving just Princess.
When Princess’ caretaker was about to retire, the estate offered Princess to Popcorn Park Zoo, which took her in. The zoo cares for abandoned and abused animals.