Friday, November 27, 2009

Camels Invade Australian Settlement

Camels were first brought to Australia to help explorers travel through the desert Photo: EPA

This is not the first incidence of animals approaching human settlements in search of water. Drought has been a bigger disaster globally than usual this year; and, people are not the only sufferers.

The residents of the small settlement of Kaltukatjara in the Northern Territory settlement, Australia, are under siege. Kaltukatjara is a settlement of indigenous peoples which is sometimes referred to by the European name Docker River.

The drought is driving approximately 6,000 camels to do the desperate – they have invaded the settlement in search of water. Town people have gone indoors and shut the doors against the camels in fear. The animals have trampled fences, smashed through water mains, torn water tanks apart and invaded the airstrip. Now they are trying to force their way into people’s home to drink water from the air-conditioning units, taps or anywhere they can find it.

The local government has decided that the only way to deal with the situation is to round up the camels by helicopter and shoot them. Camels are not native to Australia. They were brought over by early settlers and set loose when they were no longer needed.

Rob Knight, the local government minister, said: "The community of Docker River is under siege by 6,000 marauding, wild camels. This is a very critical situation out there, it's very unusual and it needs urgent action. We don't have the luxury of time because the herd is getting bigger.”

The government is putting up $49,000 Australian (£27,000 or $44,300 USD) to herd them nine miles into the desert where marksmen will “cull” them from the air. The money will also be used to repair the damages that the camels have done.

The camels were brought to Australia in the 1840’s and have flourished ever since. There are over one million of them in the Northern Territory’s red-sand deserts; and, many feel that they are eroding the natural environment.

The Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association has welcomed the move to cull them and chief Luke Bowen says: “This is a plague of biblical proportions laying waste to a sensitive and arid environment. We have to have action; we have to have it now.”

Local shire chief Graham Taylor said: "I think the words 'under siege' are good words because it talks about people being stuck in their homes and looking out and seeing just numbers of camels at your front door.”

Concerns have been raised around the health issues surrounding the bodies of camels killed in the stampedes at water storage areas contaminating the settlement’s water supply.

Glenys Oogjes, executive director of Animals Australia, said the plan to kill camels by helicopter was barbaric and that the community could instead focus on setting up barriers to keep out the camels.

"It's a terrible thing that people react to these events by shooting," she said. "The real concern is the terrible distress and wounding when shot by helicopter. There will be terrible suffering."

Unfortunately, it’s the camels’ amazing ability to survive that may eventually doom it. With few natural predators they have swollen in numbers; and, now compete with sheep and cattle for food. Wild camels are carriers of disease that can spread to the cattlemen’s herds making them wildly unpopular. They are no friend to the local environments either – destroying revegetation projects in the desert communities by ripping up the plants for food.

Via Telegraph

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