Thursday, November 26, 2009

Humpback Horror: Camel Chaos In Oz

RIGHT: Camels were used by white settlers who built roads and railways across the Outback

Thursday November 26, 2009
Ian Woods, Sky correspondent in Australia

Around 6,000 feral camels are rampaging through a remote Australian town causing chaos and terrifying the locals, prompting the government to organise a mass cull.

The Northern Territory government said that the community of Docker River was "under siege".

Local government minister Rob Knight said: "They've actually come right into the community smashing infrastructure, so it's become a critical situation.

"There are health issues, there are camels being trampled, and dead carcasses in the community.

"They are smashing over water mains and intruding on the airstrip, causing problems with medical evacuations."

Many of the 330 residents are said to be too scared to leave their homes. The town is around 150 miles west of Uluru, commonly known as Ayers Rock.

Graham Taylor, the chief executive of local authority Macdonnell Shire, told Sky News it was a crisis.

"It began four weeks ago with 25 or 30 camels, but every day more and more turned up looking for water," he said.

He said the camels would be rounded up and taken out of town to be shot humanely.

The animals are part of a wild herd of more than a million camels which roam the central Australian desert.

They were introduced to the country in the 19th century when white settlers built roads and rail across the Outback, and used the animals for transportation.

The camels were set free afterwards, and have been breeding ever since.

With few natural predators and vast sparsely-populated areas in which to roam, the camel population has soared, putting pressure on native species by reducing food sources, destroying habitat and spreading disease.

Earlier this year, the Federal government announced it was allocating £10m to tackle the problem.

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