Indigenous elders in a drought-ravaged part of South Australia have given the green light for an army of shooters to take to the skies in helicopters to cull up to 10,000 feral camels.
And it won’t take them long to meet that seemingly large target.
The major operation will begin on Wednesday in a bid to control the huge populations of the animals that have overrun the state’s remote northwest region.
Managers of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands approved the mass kill, saying feral camels are causing havoc in local communities
“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 airconditioners,’’ Marita Baker, board member of the APY executive, told The Australian.
Her community of Kanypi is one of many to be invaded by feral camels recently as the parched pests search out scarce water.
Professional shooters in helicopters will begin the cull operation this Wednesday and are expected to be finished within five days.
In that short period of time, they’ll have killed 10,000 of the feral animals.
“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,” a spokesperson for the SA Department of Environment and Water told news.com.au.
In APY communities, thousands of feral camels have been wreaking havoc, 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.
“In some cases dead animals have contaminated important water sources and cultural sites.”
Experts indicate there are more than 1.2 million feral camels in Australia – particularly concentrated in the country’s centre.
But they continue to spread further afield, including into farmland in the southeast coastal district of Western Australia.
The nomadic desert beasts are thought to be migrating away from dry conditions in the Nullarbor and Goldfields in a desperate attempt to find food and water.
According to the latest Australia State of Environment Report (ASER), camels were introduced to Australia around 1840 and by 2008, an estimated 1 million camels were roaming the central arid lands of Western Australia, the Northern Territory, South Australia and Queensland.
Despite culling efforts between 2009 and 2013, which resulted in the deaths of 160,000 camels in Central Australia using ground-based and aerial culling techniques, the population has now swelled to around 1.2 million.
– Additional reporting by Ben Graham