10,000 feral camels at risk of being shot as they search for water amid Australia’s severe drought
ADELAIDE, Australia - About 10,000 feral camels in a remote area of South Australia are at risk of being killed as severe drought conditions have pushed the animals to consume already scarce water sources.
The shooting is set to start Wednesday and will last for five days, according to Aboriginal leaders in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands.
The area’s local government said in a memo on Facebook that "extremely large groups of camels and other feral animals in and around communities" are putting pressure on remote Aboriginal communities as the camels search for water.
A file image shows feral camels on a sand dune near Boulia, central west Queensland, Australia. (Photo by: Auscape/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
“With the current ongoing dry conditions, the large camel congregations threatening the APY communities and infrastructure, immediate camel control is needed,” the memo reads.
The South Australian Department for Environment and Water estimated that 10,000 camels are flocking to water sources, including tanks, taps and any available water, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"In some cases, dead camels have contaminated important water sources and cultural sites," a DEW spokesperson told the outlet.
APY Lands manager Richard King added that camels could smell water from 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) away.
"Some people, in this sort of weather, are unable to put their air conditioners on, for fear that the animals are going to attack their air conditioners for their moisture," King told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Australia has experienced its hottest and driest year on record, fueling deadly fires across the country that have been blazing since September. So far, 26 people have been killed, 2,000 homes destroyed and an area twice the size of the U.S. state of Maryland has been scorched.
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Professional shooters were expected to kill thousands of the animals from helicopters over the next week, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. Their carcasses will be left to dry off before they are burned.
Camels were introduced to Australia during the 19th century and used for transport and construction, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. By 2010, scientists estimated that up to one million feral camels roamed the Australian Outback.
The animals eat more than 80 percent of the plant species available, a higher percentage than any other species consumes, according to Pew.
If culling did not take place, camel populations can double every eight to 10 years, according to Pew.
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This story was reported from Cincinnati.