Camels are pictured on an Australian camel dairy farm in April 2016. Camels are not native to Australia, and thirsty feral camels have become a significant problem in recent months amid severe drought and fires.
A lot of camels are going to die this week, as Australian hunters mow them down from the air.
More than 1 million of the humped creatures wander Australia. They aren’t from the continent, but arrived in the 1840s on ships — brought in as an ideal means of transport for the country’s vast deserts. Nearly 200 years later, they’re mostly feral pests, destroying habitats and competing with humans and native species for resources, according to Earther. And amid the worst drought and fire season in national memory, Australia wants to kill 10,000 of them from helicopters.
Indigenous elders in the state of South Australia approved the plan, after a series of incidents in which parched camels, desperate for water in the drought-ravaged landscape, created major problems for their human neighbors, according to News.com.au.The killing is expected to take place in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara territories in the northwest part of the state, according to the BBC. The cull, which began yesterday (Jan. 8), should last five days.
“We have been stuck in stinking hot and uncomfortable conditions, feeling unwell, because the camels are coming in and knocking down fences, getting in around the houses and trying to get to water through air conditioners,” Marita Baker, an indigenous leader, told The Australian.
In some instances, the camels have managed to contaminate precious water sites, News.com.au reported.
The mass camel cull is a small piece of a much larger tragedy impacting Australia. The country just got done with its hottest year on record (even as 2019 was the second hottest on record across the globe), and South Australia got less rain in the last 11 months than at any other point in recorded history. According to Australian researchers, the increasing heat and lower precipitation is making the continent more susceptible to extreme weather events, most notably massive bushfires. And once fires start, they tend to be much worse. So far this fire season, a region as large as South Korea has burned, killing 24 people and likely well over a billion animals.
According to the Australian government’s climate projections, this unusually dry season is likely just an early look at what’s to come for the country as the climate changes. Already the continent is warmer and dryer than ever, and those trends are expected to continue and worsen, setting the country up for even more significant fires in the future.