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Tuesday, 11 June, 2002, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Australia supplies Saudis with camels
Australian camels
Half-a-million feral camels roam Australia
Australia has begun exporting camels to Saudi Arabia.

More than 100 animals are being shipped from the Australian port city of Darwin and are due to arrive in Saudi Arabia in early July.


What we're looking at is catering to Muslim countries worldwide

Peter Seidel
Central Australian Camel Industry Association
The vast majority are destined for restaurant tables in a major camel-consuming nation.

Camels were first brought into Australia in the 19th century, and their population has multiplied since then.

Peter Seidel, who heads the Central Australian Camel Industry Association, told BBC Online that the Saudis need to import Australian camels for meat production, because they focus on breeding animals for domestic and racing purposes.

"The Saudis do not have enough [camels] for their own consumption of meat," he says.

Australian camels
Camels are already exported to Jordan and other Arab states
Hundreds of thousands of camels are slaughtered every year during the Muslim pilgrimage, or Hajj, in Mecca.

The Saudis have traditionally imported camels from North Africa, but Mr Seidel says a combination of disease, drought and political instability has led them to look elsewhere.

Camel meat is also consumed elsewhere in the Muslim world - a fact not lost on Australian camel-exporters.

"What we're looking at is catering to Muslim countries worldwide," says Peter Seidel.

Mr Seidel says his main target is neighbouring Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country.

Population explosion

Between 1860 and 1907, about 10,000 camels were imported into Australia - mostly from Palestine and India.

They were used as draft and riding animals by people pioneering the dry interior.

Road signs in Australia's outback
Australian motorists beware
When their work was done, the animals were just turned loose.

Now there are more than 500,000 feral camels in Australia, and in some places they are becoming a nuisance.

"In the past they stayed in desert areas," says Peter Seidel. "Now they are becoming more visible, and can be a threat to wildlife."

Typically, camels caught in the wild are domesticated before they are exported.

"They have to be used to being penned and transported, so they can be shipped," Mr Seidel says.

He insists members of his association "abide by the strictest animal welfare regulations".

See also:

15 Mar 01 | Middle East
01 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
11 Mar 00 | Middle East
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