SYDNEY: Australian authorities on Wednesday began culling at least 10,000 wild camels whose overwhelming population has endangered communities in the desert region as they try to access water amid one of the worst droughts in the country's history.
Aboriginal areas of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) reserve, "have been unable to manage the scale and number of camels that congregate in dry conditions", Efe news quoted a statement from the Department for Environment and Water of South Australia as saying.
An APY executive committee statement said professional snipers teams would shoot the animals in an operation set to last at least five days.
Some 10,000 wild camels approach water sources used by the area's aboriginal population and damage their infrastructure, endangering families and communities, as well as competing with cattle.
Many of these camels die of thirst or trample each other to access water, according to the statement from the South Australia environmental department.
"The dead animals have contaminated important water sources and cultural sites (which are important for the aboriginal community, as their spirituality is deeply linked to their sacred places)," it added.
APY Lands Manager Richard King told national broadcaster ABC that they would try to kill the camels when they approach water sources.
"It gives us an opportunity to get them while they're all together, because generally they'll go and move around the desert in smaller herds. So while they're all together, it's a great time to have a cull and clean out some of the animals that are destroying some of our native vegetation," King said.
According to tracking portal CamelScan, there are about 1.2 million wild camels in Australia, and their population doubles every nine years.
According to the portal, these animals live in a area spanning 3.3 million square kilometers and cause more than A$10 million ($6.8 million) in yearly damages.
It is not the first time Australia kills animals such as camels and horses that aren't endemic to the country and are often a threat to the ecosystem and native species, generally composed of smaller populations that include few carnivorous species.