Page last updated at 15:39 GMT, Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Thirsty camels get the hump in Australia water search

Wild camel searches for food near the Ross River (file)
Australia has the largest wild camel population on Earth

A remote Australian outback town is under siege from thousands of feral camels hunting for water as drought continues to grip parts of the country.

The thirsty dromedaries smashed water mains and invaded the local airstrip in Docker River, leaving residents too scared to venture outside.

The local council has been given extra money to cull the animals.

Officials plan to use helicopters to herd them outside the town's borders, where they will be shot.

Local Government Minister Rob Knight said the town in the Northern Territory, with a population of just 350, was under siege from 6,000 marauding camels.

"They've actually come right into the community, smashing infrastructure, so it's become a critical situation," he said.

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

Australia has the largest herd of feral camels in the world, numbering more than a million.

With few natural predators, the camel population has soared, threatening fragile desert ecosystems.

Camels were introduced as pack animals in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries and then released into the wild as road and rail transport improved.

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