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Land Rights News Central Australia: Land Rights News (September 2010)

Published: September, 2010

Residents consent to a camel management plan

Camel Trouble in the Centre

Many of the responses were highly emotional and impractical and many involved plans to harvest the camels. Some responses were from shooting enthusiasts wanting sport but shooting on Aboriginal Lands is illegal, and shooting to cull must be to national humane standards that are carefully monitored.

The cull was required to reduce the immediate pressure being exerted on the Docker River community in the far south-west of the Northern Territory by tens of thousands of feral camels which were knocking over taps and pipes in a desperate search for water during a dry spell in the region.

At the time, many people made claims in the media suggesting great possibilities for the harvesting of camels but most claims did not consider the community’s immediate right to a safe environment. Subsequent proposals for harvesting camels have been presented to the CLC.

Many rely on maintaining high camel numbers to make it easier and cheaper to capture them; many don’t factor in the costs of fuel, availability of transport and a lack of roads in remote areas; many don’t take into account the size of the regions and the roaming nature of camels; some want to buy camels but aren’t proposing to muster or yard them; while others are highly selective about the type of camels they want.

Only one proposal has demonstrated an understanding that the land management goals are to reduce damage to country by reducing camel numbers fast and providing benefits to remote communities such as employment.

The CLC’s project officer Jude Prichard said culls are planned for remote areas with limited road access, where the cost of harvesting them makes it unviable or harvesting proposals have failed to get off the ground and in critical situations when numbers have grown to be an environmental, safety and cultural concern.

“Work area clearances are being undertaken for harvesting and a huge area in the Petermann region has been mapped for a harvesting licence,” she said. “But harvesting camels is only possible when a buyer can be found and the sale is profitable.”

Over the past 12 months Ms Prichard has attended numerous community meetings to present information on the camel problem in Central Australia and to seek community members’ permission to manage them.

Meetings of traditional owners and residents at Akaranenhe Well, Aputula, Ulpanyali, Kintore, Santa Teresa, Nyirripi, and Kaltukatjara have seen people thinking about the scale of the camel problem and the management options possible on their country.

“We grow great camels and huge rains this year will contribute to population growth,” she said. “We’re concentrating on preparing planned actions rather than having to resort to emergency responses.

“There have been three camel-related fatalities of Aboriginal people driving through country and police say that there were many more near misses, and non fatal accidents,” Ms Prichard said.

The CLC is using the Caring for our Country program to develop community mustering and trapping skills in communities.

Seven sites in the Simpson Desert, Petermann and Haasts Bluff land trusts are being investigated for the suitability of mustering and trapping camels. These sites are considered essential to the long-term management of feral camels at reduced numbers.

Regional aerial surveys, like the one already conducted in the Simpson Desert, will determine the effectiveness of the camel management program.

The CLC is using regional maps to work with communities to discuss camel management plans and to identify sites that are suitable for trapping or mustering camels by communities or under commercial agreements.

In places where culling is the best option for reducing numbers, maps for land trusts are being prepared that show exclusion zones around communities and sites of significance.

Traditional owners will advise where not to shoot throughout the process. Culling will commence this year.