Voracious Feral Camels Are the New Cane Toads (Which Are the New Rabbits…)

By Veronique Greenwood | May 18, 2011 1:57 pm

Report yer feral camels here.

In another edition of “invasive species are a bad idea,” Australia is suffering a plague of feral camels (on top of the rabbit brouhaha, the cane toad fracas, and the red fox situation). Imported by those clever British settlers to work in the desert in the late 19th century, these dromedaries were released into the wild when trains and machinery took over the work. Now, there are more than a million kicking around the outback, and they are coming to eat your air conditioner. And your toilet. And anything else that might have water in it.

Camels can chug more than 50 gallons of water in three minutes, and when drought hits, they can go on a rampage, destroying plumbing systems and rushing to water holes in such a crush that some are trampled. Their rotting carcasses then foul the water that Aboriginal communities depend on. Camels cause more than that 10 million Australian dollars-worth of damage a year, and they’re next to impossible to stop, says a scientist who studies them (in an Australian accent, which makes it even more menacing): “These are very strong animals…If they’re after water, they will use everything they’ve got to get at it” (via Discovery News).

Eradicating the camels totally is impossible, he says—there are just too many. So groups like the Australian Feral Camel Management Project are aiming to control the population—by hunting and capturing camels for use as food (for pets and people)—and let people know when the camels are on their way. To track the critters’ movements, the project has set up a Google Maps system for reporting sightings. It’s called CamelScan. Since it launched last month, more than 150 camel sightings have been reported.

(via Discovery News)

Image credit: Australian Feral Camel Management Project

  • Roger Slocum

    There’s your problem.

    Post an international notice: “Camel Culling! Hunt all you like: no season, no bag limit. $(AUS)100/camel tag.” Australia makes at least $100 million getting rid of the problem. Sarah Palin will be out there outback with her .308 and a backup helicopter. The whole of Georgia will visit, rapturous.

    Let the US Marines loose for a week, then clean up 1,000,003 shell casings. To err is human, to forgive, divine. Neither one is Marine Corps policy.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience Ed Yong

    Unlike cane toads, camel golf/cricket would be a bit harder…

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ Roger Slocum:

    Trust a person with a political ideology (or a vicious sense of humor) to overlook the text he is supposed to read: “Eradicating the camels totally is impossible …. there are just too many.”

    Also, you wouldn’t want to compound one problem (out of control species) with another (out of control weapons). I live in a nation with gun control, without unnecessary accidental deaths, and much less crime (Sweden).

  • http://invasivore.org Invasivore

    Eat em! And other invaders as well. Who’s got a good camel recipe for me to try? What’s it taste like?

  • annemaccat

    How about setting up watering stations ahead of camel spottings and in this water put in a strong unisex birth control or better yet put in real strong sleeping meds and do onsite neutering of ALL males, young and old.

  • http://www.IllinoisScience.org Monica

    Sure, “strong unisex birth control” sounds like a great idea, except for…. Has such a thing been devised for ANY species that could be dissolved in their water? Oh, and you need to transport — quickly and cheaply? — a couple hundred gallons of water per animal to wherever they’re heading to get them to drink it. Again, “there are just too many.”

  • positively positive

    Even if hunting won’t wipe them out, it would help. Hunting isn’t something I’d care to do, but when the species is abundant & the meat is used, why not? I’m not a vegan or vegetarian, so I’m already causing animals’ deaths. Aren’t you?

  • Roger Slocum


    3-5 billion passenger pigeons were quickly hunted to extinction without government funding. Pigeons can fly. Smoking a million 700-1000 lb camels that top at 9 mph terrestrial is a few drunken weekends. Call them “big deer.” Everybody south of the Mason Dixon Line over the age of 12 will be hauling Sweetlips and an ammo box Down Under. ATV rentals will float the Australian economy. Fosters will suck the rivers dry for brewing. Every Aussie hooker will be a millionnaire. It will be like Cuba under Bautista – a good time had by everybody, and especially by Australians.

    Russian millionnaires with AKs, especially the modern 1xx series. Putin giddy as a school girl. Yer gonna have bubbas with Stihl chain saws doing echelon hunts, bow hunters, rifled shotguns with copper-clad deer slugs, Hutus with machetes, drug lords with .50 Barretts, folks dusting off their Claymore souvenirs from ‘Nam. It will be heaven on Earth until the last camel is punctuated.

    It is raining soup in the Australian Outback. The locals are wearing their soup bowls as rain bonnets. Australia is staring down a Golden Age of low overhead, high profit tourism by folks who take their campers to Cabela’s giant parking lot for a week of shopping. The bottom line? Aussies are whining about all that yellow.

  • Old Rockin’ Dave

    @ Torbjörn Larsson: you “live in a nation with gun control, without unnecessary accidental deaths, and much less crime”. And without camels. By the way how does Swedish law view necessary accidental deaths?
    Maybe someone could get the camels doing Brainetics. They are probably the only large mammal stupid enough to fall for it, and would get so distracted they would forget to eat. Then the Brainetics spam might stop and the camels would starve to death, fixing two problems at once. Or maybe the camels would eat the Brainetics spammers, thereby earning themselves a pardon.

  • Veronique Greenwood

    @Dave, we blocked Brainetics from commenting–hopefully that’ll help as well.

  • http://NotionsCapital.com Mike Licht

    Fresh camel meat can be mighty good eatin.’

  • http://hanrahan.blogspot.com Hanrahan

    The good old USA is no place for a real cowboy . Your old praire boy doesn’t wanna be fenced in , but we run a comfortable hotel for all comers cause we can’t fence ours in .I mean half the reason we have more long legs than people is because we’ve dug holes in the ground for roads and water supply (nature makes our land flat) They are Lovable but large, esp in the leg and leapin department.

    Don’t be too hard on us because it still is a real real wilderness out ere where we can’t compete; Even the native jumpers were adapted to live free of fences before we got here. Come and join us in a real challenge – where the odds are against us mere humans exploiting too much – too easily http://designwithnature.blogspot.com.

  • http://poorrichardsnews.com Poor Richard

    Remember when Sarah Palin started her aerial wolf hunting program and people got all upset? http://bit.ly/kMt0XG Now, Australia is trying to do this for camels, and they get away with it in the name of reducing climate change?

  • http://www.tiviski.com Nancy Abeiderrahmane

    Dear Australians,
    Please, please, consider this:
    Camels are fantastic animals, much more intelligent than horses, thrifty on the environment, suited to arid climates, with excellent meat and incredibly good and valuable milk. All those gallons of water are only drunk by a camel after weeks without drinking. Camels are better for the environment than cattle.
    Australian feral camels are a magnificent resource – to be managed, not destroyed.
    If you trash this resource now, future generations will be hopping mad.
    Please look at camels with a business eye. With the money earmarked for camel slaughtering, round up at least half the camel population (mainly females), recruit Mauritanians, Kenyans or other camel breeders, for a short time, to tame them and milk them, and create jobs and good food in the outback. Some of the males may have to be culled, but don’t waste the meat and hides. They are valuable.
    The carbon argument doesn’t hold up, and 10M$ is nothing compared to the profit that can be made by developing camel husbandry and dairy.


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