As many as 5,000 camels were killed by helicopter-borne marksmen in Australia within a period of five days, reports said. The killing of the camels came as part of a five-day cull of feral herds that were threatening indigenous communities in drought-stricken areas of southern Australia. According to those familiar with the process, the large herds of the non-native camels had been driven towards rural communities by drought and extreme heat, threatening scarce food and drinking water, damaging infrastructure and creating a dangerous hazard for drivers.
Culling in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands -- home to about 2,300 indigenous people in the arid northwest of South Australia -- ended on Sunday. APY general manager Richard King said: "We appreciate the concerns of animal rights activists, but there is significant misinformation about the realities of life for non-native feral animals, in what is among the most arid and remote places on Earth."
"As custodians of the land, we need to deal with an introduced pest in a way that protects valuable water supplies for communities and puts the lives of everyone, including our young children, the elderly, and native flora and fauna first." King said weakened camels frequently became stuck and died in water holes, contaminating water sources needed by locals and native animals and birds.
"The prolonged dry period, while not difficult for native wildlife, leads to extreme distress for feral camels," he said.
APY officials said the operation had removed more than 5,000 camels.
Australia experienced its hottest and driest year on record in 2019. The severe drought conditions caused some towns to run out of water and fuelled deadly bushfires. Australia has the world's largest herd of wild camels and their population is estimated to be around 3,00,000, spread across 37 percent of the Australian mainland. The country declares them as "pest" that must be urgently stopped from spreading.
Aerial culling in Australia is the most widely used methord in which thousands of wild camels are shot down by snipers using helicopters. People say the camel groups "pose threats" to communities, scarce water resources and are destroying and eating up food supplies, necessitating "immediate camel control."
Camels were first introduced to Australia in the 1840s to aid in the exploration of the continent's vast interior, with up to 20,000 imported from India in the six decades that followed.