Thu, Jan 09, 2020 - Page 4 News List

Snipers to cull up to 10,000 camels in South Australia

AFP, SYDNEY

Snipers yesterday took to helicopters in Australia to begin a mass cull of up to 10,000 camels, as drought drives big herds of the feral animals to search for water closer to remote towns, endangering Aboriginal communities.

Local officials in South Australia state said that “extremely large” herds have been encroaching on rural communities — threatening scarce food and drinking water, damaging infrastructure and creating a dangerous hazard for drivers.

It comes after Australia experienced its hottest and driest year on record last year, with the severe drought causing some towns to run out of water and fueling deadly bushfires that have devastated the country’s southeast.

The five-day cull in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands — home to about 2,300 Aborigines in the northwest of South Australia — is the first in the state, local media reported.

“These [camel] groups are putting pressure on the remote Aboriginal communities in the APY lands and the pastoral operations as the camels search for water,” the APY executive board said in a statement.

South Australia’s Department for Environment and Water, which is supporting the aerial cull, said the drought had also created “critical animal welfare issues,” as some camels have died of thirst or trampled each other as they rush to find water.

“In some cases dead animals have contaminated important water sources and cultural sites,” a spokesperson added.

Camels were first introduced to Australia in the 1840s to aid in the exploration of the continent’s vast interior.

Australia is now thought to have the largest wild camel population in the world, with official estimates suggesting more than 1 million are roaming the country’s inland deserts.

The animals are considered a pest, as they foul water sources and trample native flora while foraging for food over vast distances each day.

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