Australia Has Lost 1 Billion Animals To Wildfires — Now It Will Kill 10,000 Feral Camels

Published January 10, 2020

A government spokesperson said the camels have caused "significant damage to infrastructure" and become a "danger to families and communities."

Camels In Australia

PixabayAustralia is already beginning to perform a mass culling of 10,000 feral camels in its southern territory.

Australia’s devastating wildfires and drought have resulted in the loss of many lives, both among humans and animals. Now, thousands of camels in Australia are going to be killed due to the severe conditions sweeping the country.

According to Australia’s News, over the course of five days starting this week, the feral camels that roam Australia will be killed by sharp-shooters in helicopters.

The announced culling comes after the camel population has reportedly taken over the northwest region of South Australia, causing damage to urban infrastructure and land plots as they search for the area’s depleted water reserves.

Australian Wildfires

Peter Parks/AFP via Getty ImagesAt least a billion animals have died from the fires that have ravaged Australia since last year.

“We have been stuck in stinking hot and uncomfortable conditions, feeling unwell, because the camels are coming in and knocking down fences, getting in around the houses and trying to get to water through air conditioners,” Marita Baker, a board member of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Executive, told The Australian.

Baker added that the safety of the community’s children is also a major concern as these animals become increasingly bold in their quest for water.

The wild camels have caused so much havoc that their mass culling on aboriginal APY land, where the animals roam freely, was given the go-ahead by the APY lands manager. The APY territory is home to a number of Australia’s Aboriginal tribes who, according to a spokesperson for the South Australia Department of Environment and Water, have been affected by the camels’ destructive behavior.

“For many years traditional owners in the west of the APY Lands have mustered feral camels for sale, but this has been unable to manage the scale and number of camels that congregate in dry conditions,” the spokesperson said.

“This has resulted in significant damage to infrastructure, danger to families and communities, increased grazing pressure across the APY Lands and critical animal welfare issues as some camels die of thirst or trample each other to access water.” The spokesperson added that in some cases these dead animals end up contaminating the water supply.

Camels are not native to Australia — they arrived on the continent in the 1840s, when they were brought to be used as a means of transport through Australia’s vast deserts. Now, 200 years later, an estimated one million camels walk the dry plains of the country.

To locals, they are considered pests due to their destructive behavior and their presence also increases competition for the region’s scarce resources. The government plans to kill 10,000 of these feral camels starting this week.

It’s not the first time the Australian government has turned to mass killing to combat the overpopulation of invasive animals.

In 2015, Australia announced a major plan to kill two million feral cats — considered to be ‘pests’ just like the camels — by shooting or poisoning. The government said the feline extermination is meant to “prevent the threat of extinction to even more native Australian species.”

Koala In Tree

Many of Australia’s wildlife have fallen victim to its fires.

The sanctioned culling of the camels recently comes amid the raging fires that persist across the country that have burned through more than 17.9 million acres of land inhabited by the country’s unique wildlife.

Australia’s bush fires are an expected yearly occurrence. But the extreme magnitude and longevity of this season’s bush fires have had dire consequences on Australia’s animals. WWF Australia estimates that approximately 1.25 billion animals may have been killed by the ongoing bush fires.

According to Australian researchers, the increasing heat and decreasing rainfall has made the continent more susceptible to extreme weather events than before.

“This heart-breaking loss includes thousands of precious koalas on the mid-north coast of NSW [New South Wales], along with other iconic species such as kangaroos, wallabies, gliders, potoroos, cockatoos and honeyeaters,” WWF Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said in a statement.

“Many forests will take decades to recover and some species may have tipped over the brink of extinction. Until the fires subside, the full extent of damage will remain unknown.”

The situation has become so desperate that many well-meaning folks are trying to raise funds for Australia’s bush fire relief, including an LA-based model who launched a charity campaign offering her nude photos in exchange for donations.

Next, read about the new study that suggests humans lived in Australia 55,000 years earlier than previously thought. Then, discover Coober Pedy, Australia’s cool underground city.

Natasha Ishak
A former staff writer for All That's Interesting, Natasha Ishak holds a Master's in journalism from Emerson College and her work has appeared in VICE, Insider, Vox, and Harvard's Nieman Lab.
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Ishak, Natasha. "Australia Has Lost 1 Billion Animals To Wildfires — Now It Will Kill 10,000 Feral Camels.", January 10, 2020, Accessed June 25, 2024.