Outback Camel Farm
As camels were ideally suited to the hot, dry climate of Australia's interior, they were imported in the 19th century and remained the principal means of outback transport until railways and roads were established. When this occurred, camel owners were ordered to shoot their camels, but, having become very attached to their animals, many instead released them into the wild so that now there are an estimated one million feral camels roaming the outback.
Because of their soft-padded feet, camels cause less erosion than cattle or sheep, but these enormous numbers of camels are becoming a problem because they:
- eat more than 80% of the plant species available, which includes bush tucker for the local indigenous population, and food for native animals.
- foul waterholes
- destabilise dune crests
- destroy taps, pumps, stock fences, cattle watering points and even toilets while looking for water, particularly in times of severe drought
Small numbers of feral camels are rounded up and exported live to the Middle East, where the flesh of disease-free wild camels is prized as a delicacy. Because their breed is so pure, they are also used as breeding stock for Arab camel racing stables.
However, the current export trade is not sufficient to control numbers, so each year many are rounded up and destroyed.