Camel cull down under

The Australian Government is set to spend Aus$19 million to cull the vast herds of feral camels in the Outback, killing in the region of 650,000 of these animals.

Opinions are divided as to whether this will prove beneficial or not and questions are also being asked about the methods to be used.

Australia is home to the world’s only herds of wild, or fera,l camels, around one million of them in total. They roam the vast deserts in search of food and water and, ever increasingly, are damaging drops and homes in their attempts to find sustenance.

The first camel arrived in Australia in 1840, the only one of four to survive the trip from the Canary Islands. Later in the 1840’s, many more began to arrive from India and Afghanistan and in the 1860’s they began to arrive in large numbers.

They were imported for use as pack animals, hauling heavy loads over long distances. The advent of the railway, however, gradually reduced their usefulness and many were just set free to roam the deserts. And now there are over one million of them doing just that.

A scarcity of food and, in particular, water has led to these feral camels raiding farms and ranches, causing considerable of damage to both crops and property by all accounts. As a result, the decision has been taken to cull thses vast herds.

The animals will be rounded up by helicopters and then shot by expert marksmen. Some argue that shooting from helicopters will leave many animals merely wounded and health experts have voiced fears about just leaving the animals, dead or wounded, to rot in the desert.

Others complain about the cost involved in the culling process, some Aus$19 million. If one agrees that there are too many feral camels in a country where the water supply in many areas is inadequate or scarce, if one agrees that the camel is not indigenous to Australia and is possibly disturbing, or will disturb, the local ecosystem and if one agrees that a cull is the only sensible or realistic solution to the problem, a few alternatives:

Export some of the camels to areas (countries) where there is a shortage of these animals.

At least collect the culled animals for meat. There are many countries where camel meat is eaten and there are a lot of starving people in the world. At least the death of the animal will not have been entirely in vain or without purpose.

Licence the use of the skin of culled animals for the manufacture of clothing.

Charge licenced hunters a fee to hunt the animals on the ground. Not only is it likely that the animals will meet a more humane end, but the Government will actually be earning money rather than spending millions.

The problem is, of course, of their own making. The animals were expressly introduced into the country rather than being smuggled in.

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