10 Incredible Facts About Camels In Australia

Australian feral camels are animals that currently live in the Australian wilderness after they were released there by humans in the 1930s.

Back in the 19th century, pioneers set out to explore the hot and dry Outback region in Australia.

The climate there proved to be too extreme, even for the most resilient horses.

Luckily for the pioneers, domesticated camels were what they needed.

Camels were well-suited to exploring and surviving in the Australian wilderness. 

They were used to transport goods and travelers up to the early 20th century when they got replaced by motorized vehicles and rails.

Around 5000 of them were released into the wilderness, and there they thrived.

In 1966, their numbers were estimated to be between 15,000 and 20,000. 

Fast forward 50 years and their numbers grew 30 times, to around 600,000.

Read our 10 most interesting facts to learn more about these feral animals.

10 facts about camels in australia

Facts About Camels In Australia

  1. Camels are not native to Australia. In the 1840s, British settlers used camels to help them explore the vast and arid areas of the Australian Outback.
  2. Most of the camels in Australia are one-humped Dromedary camels (Camelus Dromedarius). They were imported from India, Afghanistan, and the Middle East in the 19th century.
  3. Camels in Australia have no natural predators. They might get attacked by an Australian wild dog, Dingo, but only in case their territories overlap.
  4. Currently, there are about 300,000 camels in Australia. The Australian Feral Camel Management Project managed to reduce their number from 600,000 to 300,000 since 2009.
  5. Aboriginal name for a camel is “Murtitikilpa”, which translates to “Knees knock together”. At first, those indigenous people thought that the camel was just a “white man’s emu”.
  6. Feral camels will eat 80% of the plants available in the habitat, according to research done in Alice Springs.
  7. The feral camels inhabit areas of Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, and the Northern Territory. They can be mostly be found in Australian desert parts like the Great Sandy, Gibson, Great Victoria, and Simpson deserts, and in some parts of the semi-desert lands. 
  8. Feral camels are declared pests because of the huge damage they cause to pastoral infrastructure in Western Australia. They are known to destroy fences, foul and damage water points, affect soil quality, and much of the available vegetation (especially the curly pod wattle, bean tree, quandong, plumbush, and supplejack). 
  9. Australia produced around 42,000 gallons (160,000 liters) of camel milk in 2019. As a comparison, in 2016 that number was around 13,000 gallons (50,000 liters). Because of the global pandemic starting in 2020, that number has decreased.
  10. Camel racing is very popular in Australia with prize money going up to $45,000. Some of the most popular races are the Camel Cup in Alice Springs, the Uluru Camel Cup, and Boulia Camel Races.

Conclusion

This concludes our article on 10 interesting Australian feral camel facts.

Australian feral camels were used to explore the Outback and then were released in the wilderness in the 20th century. Lack of natural predators and body resilience enabled them to reach a population of 600,000. They are considered pests that damage the soil, vegetation, and water sources. Camels in Australia are highly valued and used for racing, with prize money going up to $45,000.

But for them to win that prize, there is a clear set of camel racing rules they have to adhere to.

In 2009, the Australian Feral Camel Management Project was established to reduce their numbers and the negative effect on nature.

It was calculated that feral camels cost the Australian economy around  $10.67 million every year, with other non-market impacts likely being significantly higher.

To fix that issue, they removed over 160,000 feral camels from 255,000 sq miles (660,000 sq km) and reduced their population number to 300,000.

Besides Australia, there are countries with a long history of camel races and prizes of several millions of dollars.

Sources:

Indigenous Participation in Australian Economies II: Historical engagements and current enterprises

The impact of feral camels (Camelus dromedarius) on woody vegetation in arid Australia

Demography of feral camels in central Australia and its relevance to population control

Guest Editorial: Managing the impacts of feral camels

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