Ryan/Flickr / https://bit.ly/3g5Qqdw
The code of Virginia allows for the private ownership of camels, though Fairfax County law isn't as clear on the matter.
Ryan/Flickr / https://bit.ly/3g5Qqdw
The camel for sale in the D.C. area through Craigslist last week was an excellent deal: $2,500, when the going price for an even-toed ungulate generally ranges from $5,000-$20,000 in the United States, according to Camel Connection.
"We have to sadly sell our beloved camel due to moving into an uncamel friendly neighborhood," the post read. "Our sweet boy is in need of a new home preferably with his own pasture or paddock." The ad listed the five-year-old camel's condition as "excellent," and included two photos. The post eventually made it to Craigslist's "best of" page, where users nominate their favorite posts.
Reader, I had to know more, so I texted the listed number ("serious inquiries only"). No response. About 40 minutes later, I called. Shortly thereafter, I received an email with the subject line "Camel."
"Over the last couple of days I have been getting called by random numbers from people believing that I have a camel for sale. I am a college student and I do not have a camel for sale at all," the email stated. "I wanted to reach out to you to see if this is all legit, or if it [is] someone attempting to hack my phone. If this is legit, please let me know how my number is linked to a camel for sale."
I sent along the link to the Craigslist post, which the student said he had never seen before. He was wary of an interview until he could suss out how, precisely, he was connected to the sale of a supposedly beloved camel. Was it an attempt to get his banking information? A simple typo in the phone number from a real camel salesperson?
Michael S. called me back hours later with answers. "It was my girlfriend," he said. "She pranked me."
Michael is a physical therapy student currently doing a clinical rotation in Northern Virginia. (We're not using his last name because, well, his phone number was just posted on the internet.)
This screenshot shows the advertisement for the camel, posted at $2,500.
In the middle of last week, he says, he received a text from an unknown number that read "'Hi! I saw your ad for your camel for sale. Is he still available?' I was like, 'What the heck.'" The same person followed up a few hours later with a phone call filled with specific questions about the camel, sounding like an interested buyer indeed, per Michael.
Another caller purported to be an employee of a zoo, hoping to add a new camel to the mix, he said.
All the inquiries were "exactly what you would expect from a person trying to buy a camel," said Michael, adding that, as far as he could tell, "these people were 100% serious."
As it turns out, Virginia code allows for the private ownership of camels, so long as specific regulations are followed, but the law specifies that jurisdictions can be more strict. When it comes to Fairfax County, where the post claimed the camel was located, the code doesn't mention camels by name at all --- while the creature is often considered livestock, it isn't listed among the category. The word "camel" also doesn't appear in the definition of exotic animals that the county prohibits people from owning, though the code states that the barred animals aren't limited to the list in the code. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has not responded to a request for clarification about the legal status of private camel ownership in the county.
(There's a camel who calls Fairfax County home for at least part of the year, though. During the holiday season, Mount Vernon hosts Aladdin, a friendly, hat-eating camel that hearkens back to George Washington's 1787 Christmas treat for his family. However, Aladdin spends most of his year at a farm in Berryville, Va.)
As he received the messages, Michael oscillated between hysterically laughing and worrying that someone was trying to access his bank account (one of the people who called asked for his account information to wire over the money to secure the camel). He had tried to figure out the source of the inquiries, but was unsuccessful. When he finally had the Craigslist post, he started sending it around to loved ones. After initially denying it, his girlfriend of three years, Hannah J., ultimately admitted that she and her roommate were responsible.
"There's nothing with camels in our relationship at all," he said. "It's just so random --- that's the beauty of it."
Hannah said she had been trying to figure out a good April Fools prank for Michael when her roommate, Zoe W., suggested the camel bit. It was something she had tried with great success once before and the two Pennsylvania-based graduate students got to work filling out the Craigslist post. Then, they waited for the calls to start.
"One thing I do love about this prank is that you have to be patient," said Zoe.
Hannah has taken the post down, and Michael said that he is already thinking about how he can get them back next April Fools: "I've got a whole year to figure it out, but I don't know if I can top this one."
Hannah and Zoe are already on high alert. "He was like, 'Yeah, this news reporter wants to talk to you,'" said Hannah during our phone call. "And I thought you were gonna be the prank."
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.