Feral camel cull in SA "beyond stupidity", expert says

Wild camels in Central Australia.
Wild camels in Central Australia.

A North Queensland-based camel expert has criticised the culling of up to 10,000 feral camels in South Australia, saying it's a waste of a potentially valuable industry.

The aerial cull, which began on Wednesday, will see up to 10,000 camels killed in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands in the remote north-west of the state.

Townsville's Paddy McHugh said culls such as these are an expensive way of managing the booming camel populations in inland Australia and that taking a proactive approach would be better in the long run.

"In simple terms, it's beyond stupidity," he said.

"We're the laughing stock of the Middle East for what we're doing... they really value camels and we're just shooting them.

"Yes, Australia does have a real camel problem, but this doesn't fix it... they just breed up again and then they do another cull and waste more money."

According to SA's Department of Environment and Water, the APY excutive executive requested assistance from Ten Deserts and the Alinytjara Wilurara Natural Resources Management Board to support the latest culls.

"For many years traditional owners in the west of the APY Lands have mustered feral camels for sale, but this has been unable to manage the scale and number of camels that congregate in dry conditions," a department spokesperson said.

"An estimated 10,000 camels are flocking to available water sources, including tanks, taps and any available water in communities.

Paddy McHugh believes more could be done to build Australia's camel meat industry.

Paddy McHugh believes more could be done to build Australia's camel meat industry.

"This has resulted in significant damage to infrastructure, danger to families and communities, increased grazing pressure across the APY Lands and critical animal welfare issues as some camels die of thirst or trample each other to access water.

"In some cases dead animals have contaminated important water sources and cultural sites."

Mr McHugh has worked with camels for more than 40 years and as part of his career exports live camels to the Middle East for camel beauty contests and racing.

He said building a profitable camel meat industry would be more sustainable way of controlling the camel population long term than conducting culls.

"It's pouring money down the drain," he said. "We've got to be proactive, not reactive.

"If there's a real future for camel exports in Australia, it's in meat.

"We're in an arid land, why aren't we farming an arid animal?"

Camel meat is highly valued in the Middle East and northern Africa and within Australia can find an increasing customer base through halal butcher shops.

But camel meat remains a niche product within Australia.

Mr McHugh suggested that two new camel micro-abattoirs need to be built at Kalgoorlie and Alice Springs to help grow Australia's camel meat industry further.

"The tyranny of distance is a big thing so you have to build these systerms close to where the camel populations are," he said.

"It'll take more than a few years to build the industry up, but we need to start.

"Some people say there's no market there at the moment but it's as they say, if you build it, they will come."

This story Feral camel cull 'beyond stupidity', expert says first appeared on North Queensland Register.