Dromedary camels Camelus dromedarius were introduced to Australia in the 1800s. Once vehicles began to replace camels in freight haulage work, unwanted camels were occasionally released, which has resulted in the establishment of feral camel populations.
Feral camels have established across approximately 3.3 million km2 of Australia including areas used for pastoral enterprises, mining leases, Aboriginal lands, conservation lands and other Crown Land.
The negative impacts of feral camels as vertebrate pests are well documented and include significant economic, environmental and social costs.
Economic – As well as the direct costs of pest animal control, feral camels can cause economic losses by competing with livestock for food and water. Feral camels can also damage property infrastructure (fences, livestock yards, grazing lands and water sources), which can also result in livestock escaping.
Environmental – Feral camels can cause significant damage to vegetation by their foraging behaviour and trampling as well as suppression of plant species by selective browsing on rare and threatened flora. They also damage wetlands through fouling trampling and sedimentation and compete with native animals for food and shelter.
Social – Feral camels create safety hazards for road users and on airstrips. They can also cause a nuisance in residential areas and can damage community infrastructure.
A localised feral camel population has been established in western NSW and is having serious negative impacts in the area.
If left uncontrolled, the feral camel population in western NSW is projected to increase at about 8 to 10 per cent each year, causing widespread damage and destruction.
The NSW Government has introduced a feral camel pest control order (PCO) for the Western Division of NSW, which will allow for a targeted control program in the region.
Landholders in the area now have a requirement to manage feral camels on their property.
The feral camel PCO also empowers the Western Local Land Services to: