This past weekend I spent a short amount of time exploring the Australian mid-section, Alice Springs and the famous Kata Tjuta National Park. There are lot of things that need to be said about the people I met, the nature I came across and the magnificient Uluru itself, but this post is about something a bit more trivial. Camels.
Did you know that the biggest population of wild camels is in Australia? Yes, it is true; around 1,2 milion camels live in the central and eastern parts of Australia. I thought this seemed a bit odd at first, but as the busdriver took us from Alice Springs toward Kata Tjuta, I first saw the smelly evidence on the ground and then later a couple of cool camels in person from the bus window.
The camel came to Australia from India in the mid-1800s when people needed strong, durable animals to explore the Outback with. The horses that they had already imported where not really up for the challenge that the desert climate offered. As the new settlers slowly came to an end of their trips across the continent for mapping purposes, they informed their servants to shoot the camels. These however, where animals lovers and let the camels free instead, resulting in them quickly taking over big parts of land and ruin fences for millions every year.
In the state Northern Territory, where Alice Springs and Uluru are both situated, the camels are a huge problem for sheep- and cattle farmers in the area. The camels walk right through the fences put up to hold the cattle in; they seem to be unstoppable. Every kilometer of ruined fence costs the farmer around 1000 Australian dollars to fix. (That’s 7000 Swedish krona and 770 Euro.) Last year a bunch of camels destroyed 140 kilometers of fence for the same farmer! In a rage he got permission from the government to kill off some camels to try and lower the risk of camel attacks in the future.
For five days they were allowed to hunt camels and managed to shoot over five thousand in three days. The hunt would have lasted for another two days if the cattle farmers hadn’t run out of fuel for the helicopter they were hunting from; the gas station was simply too far away to be back on time.
I also noticed that many of the restaurants and cafes in Alice Springs had camel meat on their menues, there seems to be a lot of it…