Culture 4 min read

Thousands of Camels in Australia Shot in the Midst of Drought

Julian Peters Photography /

Julian Peters Photography /

Historic wildfires have been scorching Australia for months.

Wildfires burned through over 8.4 million hectares (20 million acres) of land, about the size of a country like Austria. The fires destroyed more than 2,000 homes and claimed the lives of 26 victims.

We can only imagine the disastrous impact of the ongoing bushfire crisis on wildlife. According to WWF-Australia (World Wildlife Fund), as many as 1.25 billion animals may have been killed directly or indirectly from fires.

However, if this heavy toll on wildlife isn’t enough, Australian authorities have killed thousands of feral camels, over environmental concerns.

Thirsty Camels in Australia Under Fire

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

Thousands of animals like koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, cockatoos, and others perished in the fire. But these are iconic species from Down Under.

What about other animal species of lesser popularity, like camels?

While we don’t have exact statistics about camel deaths caused by bushfires, we know how many would die under human fire.

Dromedary camels in Australia are considered non-native species as they were imported to the country during the 19th century.

As motorized transportation gained steam at the beginning of the 20th century, camels were released into the wild. Today, about 1 to 1.2 million feral camels roam the Australian Outback, and their numbers are estimated to double about every 8-9 years.

The current environmental crisis was exacerbated by climate change. The fires blazing across Australia have been fueled by a prolonged drought on the country’s hottest and driest year on record.

The local government in Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY), an aborigine region in South Australia, launched a campaign to cull 10,000 feral camels. Not because these pacific animals are arsonists, no!

Camels are considered by authorities in the drought-hit region to be a threat to water resources. APY authorities said in a Facebook statement:

“There is extreme pressure on remote Aboriginal communities in the APY lands and their pastoral operations as the camels search for water. With the ongoing dry conditions and the large camel congregations threatening all of the main APY communities and infrastructure, immediate camel control is needed.”

Is the Mass Culling of Feral Camels a Solution

Snippers aboard helicopters have already shot 5,000 camels in an extermination campaign that lasted five days.

Authorities say that the campaign is “the best and most humane way to check their numbers to protect interests of Aboriginal communities and native species.”

Many don’t understand the “humanity” of such a radical approach. And, the argument about native and non-native species, which appears to be unfounded, also adds to the confusion.

People are now asking: what would it take for camels in Australia to be considered native species? A thousand years? Maybe a million years?

Camels have lived in Australia now for well over a century. For evidence of their success, one hasn’t to look further than their numbers. Besides, no single animal species is native to any land.

Another issue is the description of camels as being a “pest.” Feral camels in Australia might well be a pest, which is any plant or animal species that pose a threat to humans either directly or indirectly. In the case of feral camels, they put stress on the depleting water resources and grazing lands.

Some environmentalists and animal rights activists don’t consider hunting thirsty camels down a solution since it’s more like a savage act against nature. Nothing can justify such a useless and cruel massacre of wild animals in a country that doesn’t lack either water or financial resources.

Turkey has officially urged Australia to find other less radical alternatives to feral camels crisis. But, although it seems to be too late now, there is still a chance to save other camels whose ancestors contributed to the construction of Australia.

Read More: Carbon Emissions From Australia Wildfires Raise Concerns

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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