Planet Earth

Voracious Feral Camels Are the New Cane Toads (Which Are the New Rabbits…)

DiscoblogBy Veronique GreenwoodMay 18, 2011 5:57 PM

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Report yer feral camels here.

In another edition of “invasive species are a bad idea

,” Australia is suffering a plague of feral camels (on top of the rabbit brouhaha

, the cane toad fracas

, and the red fox situation

). Imported by those clever British settlers to work in the desert in the late 19th century, these dromedaries were released into the wild when trains and machinery took over the work. Now, there are more than a million kicking around the outback, and they are coming to eat your air conditioner. And your toilet. And anything else that might have water in it. Camels can chug more than 50 gallons of water in three minutes, and when drought hits, they can go on a rampage, destroying plumbing systems and rushing to water holes in such a crush that some are trampled. Their rotting carcasses then foul the water that Aboriginal communities depend on. Camels cause more than that 10 million Australian dollars-worth of damage a year, and they’re next to impossible to stop, says a scientist who studies them (in an Australian accent, which makes it even more menacing): “These are very strong animals…If they're after water, they will use everything they've got to get at it" (via Discovery News

). Eradicating the camels totally is impossible, he says—there are just too many. So groups like the Australian Feral Camel Management Project

are aiming to control the population—by hunting and capturing camels for use as food (for pets and people)—and let people know when the camels are on their way. To track the critters’ movements, the project has set up a Google Maps system for reporting sightings. It’s called CamelScan

. Since it launched last month, more than 150 camel sightings have been reported. (via Discovery News

) Image credit: Australian Feral Camel Management Project

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