Page last updated at 04:32 GMT, Thursday, 13 August 2009 05:32 UK

Australia camel cull sparks woe

By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Sydney

A farmer tracks down and catches a camel in central Australia
Camels were brought to Australia to be used for desert transport

The Australian government has proposed a budget to implement a long-standing plan to cull the country's camels by shooting them.

Animal welfare supporters reject the plan, but people sharing the outback with the camels call them a menace.

Unlike the kangaroo or koala, the camel is not an animal automatically associated with Australia.

They were first brought there in the mid-19th Century to help explorers traverse the desert.

But there are now thought to be more than one million roaming the outback.

That is roughly one camel for every 20 people, and the population is set to double over the next decade unless some form of action is taken.

In remote communities they are seen as a troublesome menace, trampling vegetation and occasionally ripping up water pipes, as they search for food and water.

So the Australian government has set aside $16m (£9.7m) to contain the problem and one proposal is to shoot the camels from helicopters or on foot.

Animal welfare groups are opposed to a mass slaughter.

They have suggested another more humane alternative: birth control, giving animals a drug to render them infertile.

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