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Australia's govt to exterminate its camels

Camels leave a trail of destruction worth $12 mln

Australia's camel problem has grown out of hand and the government is considering shooting them down as the most humane way to stop their spread, the U.K.'s The Independent reported Monday.

Australia's government has set aside £10 million ($16 million) to address the growing problem of the one-humped Camelus dromedarius which were brought to Australia in 1840 from India and Palestine as an ideal means of transporting heavy goods through the nation's arid heartland, contributing significantly to developing Australia's dry interior.

But with their numbers more than doubling every eight to nine years, they have turned into Australia's number one pests.

Munching their way nonstop through Australia's outback, camels have posed a threat to the country's desert vegetation and sensitive ecosystem leaving behind a trail of destruction amounting to £7 million ($12 million) as they search for food and water and damage the homes and lives of Aboriginal communities.

"They'll eat anything up to 80 per cent of the plants available," thus depriving other desert animals from food and water, McGregor, from the Desert Knowledge Cooperation Research Center at Alice Springs (DKCRC), told The Sydney Morning Herald.

The DKCRC, the body in charge of the federal fund, said a mass aerial shoot was the most humane way of culling the animals.

They'll eat anything up to 80 per cent of the plants available

McGregor, Desert Knowledge Cooperation

Peter Garrett, Australia's Federal Environment Minister, described the government's four year project as "the most significant commitment to tackle feral camels since they were introduced."

But culling camels is neither cheap nor effective as each cull is £50 ($82). And with the estimated culling rate of 80,000 camels a year, the government would not be able to match the alarming birth rate.

The government's fund is divided between Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, where the camel population occupies a massive 3.3 million sq. kilometers (162000 sq. miles) of land.

Eat them

But shooters and butchers keen on getting their hands on Australia's expanding camel population, which purportedly could be worth 500 million ($824 million), have suggested exporting camel meat for commercial profit instead.

Whereas live camel exports have not been majorly successful in the past, selling camel meat to domestic and overseas markets had reaped better profits with pet food companies and leather makers as annual customers.

Senior public servants in Australia's capital Canberra have also served camel burgers at a barbecue last year in a bid to promote camel meat to Australians who prefer Kangaroo, emu and crocodile meat.

Camel is a common menu choice in the Gulf states in the Middle East and its lean, low fat meat with little cholesterol makes it the choice of health conscious eaters.