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Australian feral camel

Australian feral camel

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Thousands of the two main species of Australian feral camels, mostly dromedaries
The dromedary or Arabian camel is a large, even-toed ungulate with one hump on its back. Its native range is unclear, but it was probably the Arabian Peninsula. The domesticated form occurs widely in North Africa and the Middle East...

 but also some bactrian camel
Bactrian camel
The Bactrian camel is a large, even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of central Asia. It is presently restricted in the wild to remote regions of the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts of Mongolia and Xinjiang. A small number of wild Bactrian camels still roam the Mangystau Province of southwest...

s, were imported into Australia during the 19th century for transport and construction as part of the colonisation of the central and western parts of Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. Motorised transport replaced the camels' role in the early 20th century and many were released into the wild. , the feral population numbered about one million, with a doubling time of about nine years.


Most of the camels brought to Australia were dromedaries
The dromedary or Arabian camel is a large, even-toed ungulate with one hump on its back. Its native range is unclear, but it was probably the Arabian Peninsula. The domesticated form occurs widely in North Africa and the Middle East...

, especially from India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, including the Bikaneri war camel
Bikaner Camel Corps
The Bikaner Camel Corps was a unit of Imperial Service Troops from India that fought for the allies in World War I and World War II.The Corps was founded by Maharaja Ganga Singh of the Indian state of Bikaner, as the Ganga Risala after the British government of India accepted his offer to raise a...

 from Rajasthan
Rājasthān the land of Rajasthanis, , is the largest state of the Republic of India by area. It is located in the northwest of India. It encompasses most of the area of the large, inhospitable Great Indian Desert , which has an edge paralleling the Sutlej-Indus river valley along its border with...

 as a riding camel and lowland Indian camels for heavy work. Other dromedaries included the Bishari riding camel of North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

 and Arabia. Camels from the other main camel species, bactrians
Bactrian camel
The Bactrian camel is a large, even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of central Asia. It is presently restricted in the wild to remote regions of the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts of Mongolia and Xinjiang. A small number of wild Bactrian camels still roam the Mangystau Province of southwest...

, were introduced from China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...


Camels in Australia are the only feral
A feral organism is one that has changed from being domesticated to being wild or untamed. In the case of plants it is a movement from cultivated to uncultivated or controlled to volunteer. The introduction of feral animals or plants to their non-native regions, like any introduced species, may...

 herds of their kind in the world, and are estimated to number more than 1,000,000, with the capability of doubling in number every nine years.

The first camel

The first suggestion of bringing camels to Australia was made in 1822 by Conrad Malte-Brun
Conrad Malte-Brun
Conrad Malte-Brun , born Malthe Conrad Bruun, was a Danish-French geographer and journalist. His second son, Victor Adolphe Malte-Brun, was also a geographer.-Biography:...

, whose Universal Geography contains the following;
"For such an expedition, men of science and courage ought to be selected. They ought to be provided with all sorts of implements and stores, and with different animals, from the powers and instincts of which they may derive assistance. They should have oxen from Buenos Aires, or from the English settlements, mules from Senegal, and dromedaries from Africa or Arabia. The oxen would traverse the woods and the thickets; the mules would walk securely among rugged rocks and hilly countries; the dromedaries would cross the sandy deserts. Thus the expedition would be prepared for any kind of territory that the interior might present. Dogs also should be taken to raise game, and to discover springs of water; and it has even been proposed to take pigs, for the sake of finding out esculent roots in the soil. When no kangaroos and game are to be found the party would subsist on the flesh of their own flocks. They should be provided with a balloon for spying at a distance any serious obstacle to their progress in particular directions, and for extending the range of observations which the eye would take of such level lands as are too wide to allow any heights beyond them to come within the compass of their view."

Decline in use and rise as a pest

Australia has the largest population of feral camels and the only herd of dromedary (one-humped) camels exhibiting wild behaviour in the world. (Other feral dromedary populations existed in the 20th century in Doñana National Park
Doñana National Park
-Conservation:In 1989 the surroundings of the national park were given more protection when a buffer zone was declared a natural park under the management of the regional government. The two parks, national and natural, have since been classified as a single natural landscape.In 1994 UNESCO...

 in Spain, and in the southwestern United States, while a small population of wild Bactrian camels still exists in the Gobi Desert
Gobi Desert
The Gobi is a large desert region in Asia. It covers parts of northern and northwestern China, and of southern Mongolia. The desert basins of the Gobi are bounded by the Altai Mountains and the grasslands and steppes of Mongolia on the north, by the Hexi Corridor and Tibetan Plateau to the...

.) Live camels are exported to Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, the United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates, abbreviated as the UAE, or shortened to "the Emirates", is a state situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman, and Saudi Arabia, and sharing sea borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Iran.The UAE is a...

, Brunei
Brunei , officially the State of Brunei Darussalam or the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace , is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia...

 and Malaysia, where disease-free wild camels are prized as a delicacy. Australia's camels are also exported as breeding stock for Arab camel racing
Camel racing
Camel racing is a popular sport in India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Australia, and Mongolia. Professional camel racing, like horse racing, is an event for betting and tourist attraction...

 stables and for use in tourist venues in places such as the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...


Impact on the environment

Although their impact on the environment is not as severe as some other pests introduced in Australia, camels ingest more than 80% of the plant species available. Degradation of the environment occurs when densities exceed two animals per km2, which is presently the case throughout much of their range in the Northern Territory
Northern Territory
The Northern Territory is a federal territory of Australia, occupying much of the centre of the mainland continent, as well as the central northern regions...

 where they are confined to two main regions: the Simpson Desert
Simpson Desert
The Simpson Desert is a large area of dry, red sandy plain and dunes in Northern Territory, South Australia and Queensland in central Australia. It is the fourth largest Australian desert, with an area of 176,500 km² ....

 and the western desert area of the Central Ranges
Central Ranges
Central Ranges is an Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia region in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and South Australia, and are a large part of the World Wide Fund for Nature Central Ranges xeric scrub ecoregion....

, Great Sandy Desert
Great Sandy Desert
The Great Sandy Desert is a desert located in the North West of Western Australia straddling the Pilbara and southern Kimberley regions. It is the second largest desert in Australia after the Great Victoria Desert and encompasses an area of...

 and Tanami Desert
Tanami Desert
The Tanami Desert is a desert in northern Australia situated in the Northern Territory. It has a rocky terrain with small hills. The Tanami was the Northern Territory's final frontier and was not fully explored until well into the twentieth century...

. Some traditional food plants harvested by Aboriginal people in these areas are seriously affected by camel browsing. While having soft-padded feet makes soil erosion less likely, feral camels do have a noticeable impact on salt lake ecosystems, foul waterholes and destabilise dune crests, which contributes to erosion.

Effect on infrastructure

The effects on built infrastructure may be severe, as camels may sometimes destroy taps, pumps and even toilets as a means to obtain water, particularly in times of severe drought. They also damage stock fences and cattle watering points. These effects are felt particularly in Aboriginal
Indigenous Australians
Indigenous Australians are the original inhabitants of the Australian continent and nearby islands. The Aboriginal Indigenous Australians migrated from the Indian continent around 75,000 to 100,000 years ago....

 and other remote communities where the costs of repairs is prohibitive. The problem with invading camels searching for water has become great enough that the Australian authorities have planned to eradicate as many as 6,000 camels that have become a nuisance in the community of Docker River, where the camels have caused severe damages in their search for food and water.

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