Australia feral camel cull over the hump

SYDNEY, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Some 100,000 feral camels have been culled from the Australian outback, a key step towards controlling the troublesome animals that have destroyed infrastructure, contaminated water holes and ruined sacred Australian Aboriginal sites.

Camels were first introduced to Australia during the 19th century and used as transport for exploration and to assist construction of rail and telegraph lines.

Tens of thousands were released in the 1930s when vehicle transport became more common and the wild population had soared to an estimated half a million by 2004.

“Over 100,000 feral camels have been removed from the Australian landscape through the project and the current rate of feral camel removal is around 75,000 per year, which is reducing the overall population and lowering their density around priority environmental sites,” said Jan Ferguson, who is managing the project.

The Australian feral camel is capable of covering 70 km in a day. In 2009, the damage and control costs of feral camels was estimated at over A$10 million ($10.45 million) a year.

Some landowners have raised concerns over the cull, in which the animals have been shot. They said the camels were suffering unnecessarily and bemoaned the waste of the meat, much of which is left to rot.

Ferguson said that the project did not intend to eradicate feral camels completely from outback Australia.

“Our aim is to commence managing their population to acceptable levels - and we are on track to achieve this goal,” she added. ($1 = 0.9571 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Damian Gill; Editing by Elaine Lies and Joseph Radford)