5,000 feral camels culled in drought-hit Australia

File: Weakened camels frequently became stuck and died in water holes, contaminating water sources needed by locals and native animals and birds.

File: Weakened camels frequently became stuck and died in water holes, contaminating water sources needed by locals and native animals and birds.

Faisal AL-NASSER / AFP

SYDNEY - 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.

Aboriginal leaders in South Australia state said extremely large herds of the non-native camels had been driven towards rural communities by drought and extreme heat, threatening scarce food and drinking water, damaging infrastructure, and creating a dangerous hazard for drivers.

"We appreciate the concerns of animal rights activists, but there is significant misinformation about the realities of life for non-native feral animals, in what is among the most arid and remote places on Earth," said APY general manager Richard King.

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"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.

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APY officials said the operation had removed more than 5,000 camels. 

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.

Source
AFP