SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA –
Snipers seized helicopters in Australia on Wednesday to initiate a mass slaughter of up to 10,000 camels, while drought drove large herds of wildlife to seek water closer to remote cities, endangering indigenous communities.
Local authorities in the state of South Australia said "extremely large" herds are invading rural communities – threatening food and drinking water shortages, damaging infrastructure and creating a dangerous danger for drivers.
This comes after Australia experienced the hottest, driest year on record in 2019, with severe drought causing some cities to run out of water and fueling deadly fires that devastated the southeast of the country.
The five-day slaughter on the land of Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) – home to some 2,300 indigenous people in northwestern South Australia – is the first in the state, local media reported.
"These groups (camels) are pushing remote Aboriginal communities on APY lands and pastoral operations while camels fetch water," the APY Lands executive committee said in a statement.
South Australia's environmental department, which supports air slaughter, said the drought also created "critical animal welfare problems" as some camels died of thirst or trampled as they ran to find water.
"In some cases dead animals have contaminated important water sources and cultural sites," a spokesman added.
Camels were first introduced to Australia in the 1840s to aid exploration of the continent's vast interior, with up to 20,000 imported from India over the next six decades.
Australia is now thought to have the largest wild camel population in the world, with official estimates suggesting that more than one million are roaming the country's deserts.
Animals are considered a pest, as they foul water sources and trample native flora while searching for food over long distances each day.
Traditional APY Land owners have been collecting and selling wild camels for years, but more recently they have "been unable to manage the scale and number of camels that congregate in dry conditions," according to the environment department.
As a result, "up to 10,000 camels will be destroyed to the highest animal welfare standards," he added.
Public broadcaster ABC said the animals would be killed away from the communities and the carcasses burned.