[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 April, 2005, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Australia to cull outback camels
A farmer tracks down and catches a camel in central Australia
Farmers say the camels put too much strain on water holes
Thousands of wild camels roaming the Australian outback are to be hunted and shot by marksmen in helicopters in an effort to protect farmland.

Australian officials say the country's camel population has grown to about 700,000 in recent years.

Camels were introduced to Australia in the 19th Century as desert transport animals, but have grown in number because they have no local predators.

Animal rights campaigners say aerial culling is cruel and unnecessary.

Camels enjoy vast open spaces and plenty of grazing land within Australia's vast outback.

Their numbers are growing by an estimated 11% per year, and population size has been doubling about once every eight years, officials say.

'Cost effective'

In South Australia, officials estimate that 60,000 camels are grazing near private farmland and vital water supply holes. They say it is placing an extra strain on already scarce resources set aside for sheep and cattle.

It's virtually impossible operating from the air to check that every animal is killed outright
Glenys Oogjes, Animals Australia
Up to 200 camels have been seen drinking from one water hole in the state.

State land officials decided a cull was the most efficient way to manage camel numbers.

"The simplest, quickest and most cost effective way of doing that is an aerial cull," said rural lands inspector Chris Turner.

Marksmen riding in helicopters would track the camels and shoot them from the air, Mr Turner told Australia's ABC radio.

He did not specify how many camels were expected to be culled.

'Blood bath'

Animal rights campaigners expressed their opposition to the proposals.

"You cannot cleanly kill, instantly kill, humanely kill a moving animal from a moving platform," said Hugh Wirth, national president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).

A spokesman for another group, Animals Australia, described the planned cull as a "blood bath".

This is not the first time Australia has felt the need to face down an invasive species.

European rabbits once swarmed across parts of the outback and noxious cane toads brought from South America for pest control are now spreading across the north, killing native wildlife including snakes and small crocodiles.

See the extent of the camel problem in central Australia

Australia supplies Saudis with camels
11 Jun 02 |  Middle East
The first Afghans in Australia
08 Feb 02 |  Media reports

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific