Wild camels, descendants of the beasts that helped early explorers to open up Australia’s vast, arid interior, have rampaged through a settlement in Western Australia, trampling toilets, taps and air conditioners in a frenzied effort to find water.
A severe drought has exacerbated the problems posed by the animals, which cause damage to the environment, agriculture and property. They are “mad with thirst”, according to Glenn Edwards, of the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Service. Mr Edwards will tell a crisis meeting in Perth today that camel numbers need to be slashed, either by culling them or exporting them for meat. Australia has the world’s largest feral camel population: about one million animals, a figure expected to double in the next eight years.
About 12,000 camels were imported into Australia from the 1840s, mainly from India and Pakistan. As more of the continent was mapped and settled, camels were used to transport people and goods to cattle stations, Aboriginal missions and remote mining camps.
Experts meeting in Perth are aiming to put together a national management plan to limit their numbers. The plan will examine the economic opportunities presented by the camels, including making them into pet food and building up exports. Australia does not have a licensed camel abattoir, but it exports live camels to South-east Asia, where they are slaughtered for their meat.
So who does eat camel? And is it currently available on the menu in Australia? Answers here! Would that be one hump or two sir?
Since 2001 there has been a significant reduction in water storage levels of reservoirs across Australia, which has led to water restrictions in most capital cities. Some facts & figures.