When people think of Australia, kangaroos and koalas may come to mind, but the country is also home to more than a million camels. But while Australians race to save the country’s native wildlife in the face of massive bushfires and crushing drought, the non-native camels face a different fate. Officials are planning to kill 10,000 camels over the next five days.
Aboriginal leaders in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara territories in South Australia have sanctioned culling the animals, which have been using dwindling water resources that communities need as they face severe drought. In search of water, camels have been destroying fences and lurking around homes according to a report from news.com.au. As the animals grow desperate competing for water, they sometimes wind up dying in stampedes and their carcasses can end up contaminating water sources.
In an effort to prevent further damage and reduce human-camel conflicts, state officials are letting professional shooters hunt the animals from helicopters. The operation is set to begin on Wednesday and last for five days.
Australian wildlife has been hit hard by the bushfires burning across the country with an estimated 480 million animals affected or dead, and millions of acres of habitat in ruins. The camels are a somewhat different story as they’re essentially an invasive species. Australians imported some 15,000 camels in the 1840s to help explore the dry landscape. The camel population has since ballooned with up to an estimated 1.2 million feral camels roaming mostly along the border of Northern Australia and South Australia. In addition to taxing water resources, they also have a penchant for habitat destruction. Every year, the animals are responsible for more than $10 million in damage as they destroy native vegetation, wetlands, watering holes, and cultural sites.
This year’s drought has made already scarce water resources even more contested. The Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara territories sit in a corner of the state of South Australia that has seen its lowest 11-month rainfall total ever recorded by the country’s Bureau of Meteorology. Persistent extreme heat has further baked in drought conditions there and elsewhere in Australia where water theft has become a growing concern. Climate models show Australia is likely to get drier as the climate crisis worsens and the drought is certainly a harbinger of that.
Humans created this problem, and now they’re trying to rectify it. Officials have tried to manage the population by capturing them for meat or live export. However, that hasn’t proven effective in lower population numbers. Death appears to be the best option available. Damn, RIP to the camels. They deserve better.