- Aboriginal officials in Australia’s Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands have approved a five-day cull of wild camels and other feral animals.
- Officials said that the camels are endangering people in the area and taking food and water supplies.
- There are approximately 1 million feral camels in Australia, and officials say up to 10,000 will be killed in the cull.
- APY General Manager Richard King told USA Today that the cull was a “last resort” because the camels were “putting pressure” on the region.
- The APY Lands are a scarcely populated 39,768-square-mile area, that are home to about 2,300 people.
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About 10,000 dehydrated wild camels are at risk of being shot and killed in Australia, as their home region faces a long drought and the country faces hundreds of bushfires.
Aboriginal officials in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, in the northwest corner of the state of South Australia, said in a statement posted to Facebook that the camels and other feral, undomesticated animals are eating food supplies, drinking the region’s water, and endangering people as well as other animals.
In the statement, officials approved a “Camel & Feral Animals” cull that will take place over five days.
“With the current ongoing dry conditions [and] the large camel congregations threatening the APY communities and infrastructure, immediate camel control is needed,” APY said on Facebook.
Camels aren’t native to Australia, and were brought to the country by British settlers in the 19th century. They came from India, Afghanistan and the Middle East, BBC reported.
PestSmart Connect, which provides information about invasive animals in Australia, reported that there are about 1 million feral camels in Australia.
APY General Manager Richard King told USA Today that he’s preparing for about 10,000 camels to be killed in the cull, and said that 5,000 of them “are really putting pressure on at the moment.”
“The number sounds big and the number is big,” he said. “But, in the grand scheme of things, the number represents about one percent of the feral population.” King said that the camel population is so prodigious that he expected they would double from one million to two million within the next seven years.
King noted that the culling was a “last resort” decision.
“Traditional animals — the kangaroos and wallabies and other quite endangered species — are being put under pressure by the significant numbers as they compete for food and water, and the county, really.”
The 39,768-square-mile APY Lands are facing extreme heat and a long drought as hundreds of fires burn across Australia. The region is home to about 2,300 people.
A spokesperson from the South Australia Department for Environment and Water told Insider that the cull is a result of the droughts hitting APY communities, and is not connected to the bushfires.
The APY Lands region has not been hit with bushfires like the neighboring New South Wales, but temperatures have reached about 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in recent weeks, King said.
“What [the camels] are doing is, they’re looking for moisture in the air wherever they can get it,” King said. “You’ve got traditional people living out there. Some of them have got air conditioners. Some of them have evaporative coolers. When the camels smell that, they push and push until they get to the source.”
A spokesperson from Australia’s Department for Environment told CBS News that camels have caused “significant damage to infrastructure, danger to families and communities” in the APY region.
Chris Dickman, an ecologist at the University of Sydney, told HuffPost that more than a billion mammals, birds, and reptiles are feared dead in the hundreds of bushfires that have been burning in Australia since September.
The fires have razed more than 9.9 million acres across five states. At least 20 people have died.
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