The world has been gripped by the sight of an Australia that is burning from the bushfires.
Even more shocking and heartbreaking was the news from ecologists at the University of Sydney that as much as 480 million animals have likely perished in the blazes.
But even before the bushfires, Australia has already been suffering from drought and now another species is going to become a casualty, and not because of the bushfires. Reports have come out that as many as 10,000 feral camels will be put down because they have been “wreaking havoc” in remote communities as the herds desperately search for water.
Aboriginal leaders in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands (APY) in the far northwest of South Australia have ordered the culling with the camels to be shot from helicopters over five days.
Whenever possible, the dead camels will be burnt or buried. In more remote areas, they may be left where they fall.
Marita Baker, an APY Lands executive board member, said her community, which is 1,270km northwest of Adelaide, had to endure the rampages of the mammals.
She told The Australian: “We have been stuck in stinking hot and uncomfortable conditions, feeling unwell, because the camels are coming in and knocking down fences, getting in around the houses and trying to get to water through air conditioners.”
According to a 2010 camel management plan, there are more than 1,000,000 feral camels roaming the country. Because they breed rapidly, the population can be expected to double every nine years.
The animals can destroy vegetation while dead camels could contaminate water sources. Because the camel population produces a yearly equivalent of 400,000 cars’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions, there have been calls for carbon credits for culling the camel population.
According to APY Lands manager Richard King, now was as a good a time as any to cull the camels.
He told ABC: “It gives us an opportunity to get them while they’re all together because generally they’ll go and move around the desert in smaller herds.
“So while they’re all together it’s a great time to have a cull and clean out some of the animals that are destroying some of our native vegetation.
“Some people, in this sort of weather, are unable to put their air conditioners on, for fear that the animals are going to attack their air conditioners for their moisture.”
A Department of Energy and Environment spokesperson said that international greenhouse gas accounting authorities “advise that emissions from feral animals should not be considered in a country’s emissions estimate and that emissions should only be considered from animals under domestic management.”
They continued: “As a result, Australia does not report on emissions from feral animals. Therefore, activities that change the emissions from feral animals cannot be subject to an Emissions Reduction Fund method, as they are unable to result in eligible carbon abatement and cannot contribute to Australia’s emissions reduction targets.”
Christian Aboriginal communities have opposed the culling as they consider camels sacred because of their role in the nativity of Jesus.