Australia considers mass killings of camels

August 10, 2009

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SYDNEY Thousands of camels in Australia's remote Outback could be killed by marksmen in helicopters under a government proposal aimed at cutting down the population of the havoc-wreaking creatures.

First introduced into Australia in the 1840s to help explorers travel through the Australian desert, there are now about 1 million camels roaming the country. They compete with sheep and cattle for food, trample vegetation and invade remote settlements in search of water, scaring residents as they tear apart bathrooms and rip up water pipes.

Last month, the federal government set aside 19 million Australian dollars ($16 million) for a programme to help slash the population. Besides sending in sharpshooters in helicopters and on foot, officials are considering proposals to turn some of the creatures into tasty treats such as camel burgers.

Glenn Edwards, who is working on drafting the government's camel reduction programme, said the camel population needs to be slashed by two-thirds to reduce catastrophic damage.

But some remain opposed to a mass slaughter. Camel exporter Paddy McHugh, who runs camel catching operations throughout Australia, said a cull would be ineffective. —AP