Camels - a feral crisis

Posted: Sun, November 29, 2009

The Central Land Council says it will be carrying out a camel cull in the Docker River region as soon as possible.

CLC Director David Ross said that while the CLC is collaborating on multiple strategies to reduce the numbers of camels in Central Australia, the cull is an emergency measure.

Mr Ross welcomed the swift response of the Minister for Local Government, Rob Knight, in recognising the problem and providing the funds to deal with it. The CLC is working closely with the MacDonnell Shire to deal with crisis.

“We are expecting to cull about 3000 camels in four days of aerial shooting. Most of these are the camels that have entered the community in search of water and become habituated to that supply, and are hanging around the community or in country nearby” Mr Ross said.

“Unfortunately camels respond very quickly to weather conditions so if the temperature drops or there is rainfall the camels disperse very quickly.

“One day there may be 600 camels in the community and then the next morning there may be 60.

“However, we are on standby to maximise our opportunities here to prevent damage to water supplies in the community over summer.

“We do stress this is an emergency stop gap measure only and we are working with the Desert Knowledge Centre, the Northern Territory and Federal Government and numerous other stakeholders to provide a long-term solution. The Central Land Council has worked for some years with communities to identify the disastrous environmental impacts made by the animals.

“It is essential that Aboriginal people are consulted before action is taken on their land. There has been resistance in the past because the idea that camels would be shot and left to rot rather than used goes completely against Aboriginal people’s core beliefs,” Mr Ross said.

“However we have now come to the stage where the people of Docker River are prepared to accept that this must be done.

“Both the traditional owners and the CLC are concerned that it is done in the most humane way possible. For that reason the cull will be placed in the hands of the most experienced professionals operating to the highest animal welfare standards.

“We are also considering a number of commercial proposals and examining them to ensure that they are sound.

“However, it would appear that commercial culling is not able to address the scale of this problem.

"What ever the solution, it is not an opportunity for anyone to start wildly shooting all over the Land Trust. It requires a co-ordinated response and it requires the consent of the community and traditional owners of the areas affected. "

The Central Land Council says that while it has applied for funding in the past it has been unsuccessful because government agencies have been reluctant to fund camel control programs until the Desert Knowledge report had been finished. Now that it is complete the Federal Government has put $19 million towards camel control with an expectation the states will match it.