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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 March 2007, 10:15 GMT
Outback camels 'mad with thirst'
A farmer tracks down and catches a camel in central Australia
Camels were brought to Australia to be used for desert transport
Australia's worst drought for a century is sending feral camels "mad with thirst", making a cull of the animals a necessity, officials say.

The country's one million wild camels are already a cause for concern because of the threat they pose to native animals, the environment and property.

But the drought is thought to have been to blame for a recent rampage of camels through a Western Australia outpost.

Feral camel experts are due to meet in Perth on Thursday to discuss the issue.

The Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre says a wild camel management plan is urgently needed.

"An estimated one million feral camels - whose numbers double every eight years - compete with native animals and livestock, threaten native plants, wreck fences, bores and tanks, and invade Aboriginal sites," the centre's Glen Edwards said.

He said the experts would be hearing from communities of Western Australia (WA), where half of the country's feral camels are believed to roam.

No predators

The WA Aboriginal community of Warakurna, 800km (500 miles) west of Alice Springs, was recently hit by a horde of camels, described as being "mad with thirst".

"There were a couple of hundred - they get big mobs up here," one resident told Reuters news agency.


"They did a lot of damage searching for water, trampling air conditioning hoses, taps and pipes."

Mr Edwards said a camel management plan was likely to include a number of measures, including live exports.

But he said a cull in some parts was unavoidable.

"In unpopulated areas, for example in the Simpson Desert, culling will be the only option."

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

Around 3,000 wild camels were killed in an aerial cull in southern Australia in 2005 because they were putting extra strain on already scarce resources set aside for sheep and cattle.

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