5,000 Feral Camels Culled in Drought-Hit Australia Post Wildfires
Helicopter-borne marksmen killed more than 5,000 camels in a five-day cull of feral herds that were threatening indigenous communities in drought-stricken areas of southern Australia, officials said on Tuesday, 14 January.
Aboriginal leaders in South Australia state said extremely large herds of the non-native camels had been driven towards rural communities by the drought and extreme heat, threatening to further increase food and drinking water scarcity, damaging infrastructure, and posing as a hazard for drivers.
The cull in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands – home to about 2,300 indigenous people in the arid northwest of South Australia – ended on Sunday, said APY general manager Richard King.
‘Extreme Distress Among Feral Camels’
“As custodians of the land, we need to deal with an introduced pest in a way that protects valuable water supplies for communities and puts the lives of everyone, including our young children, the elderly, and native flora and fauna first.” King said weakened camels frequently became stuck and died in water holes, contaminating water sources needed by locals and native animals and birds.
“The prolonged dry period, while not difficult for native wildlife, leads to extreme distress for feral camels,” he said.
The cull came as Australia experienced its hottest and driest year on record in 2019, with the severe drought causing some towns to run out of water and fuelling deadly bushfires that have devastated the country's southeast.
Camels were first introduced to Australia in the 1840s to aid in the exploration of the continent's vast interior, with up to 20,000 imported from India in the six decades that followed.
The animals are considered a pest, as they foul water sources and trample native flora while foraging for food over vast distances each day.
But more recently they have “been unable to manage the scale and number of camels that congregate in dry conditions”, according to the environment department.
(In arrangement with PTI)
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