For the first time, wild camels have been sold on Australia's leading online livestock auction. Australia has the world’s largest herd of feral camels that were introduced in the 1840s.
Auctioneers in Australia weren’t sure if the group of 93 Arabian camels would sell online, but they all sold for as much as $230 each.
Most were bought to keep prickly weeds under control on farms, and there was interest from domestic meat traders. The animals had been rounded up, or mustered, by helicopter on a remote property in Queensland.
Scott Taylor is a selling agent who helped arrange the auction. He says it took two days for all the wild camels to be caught.
“They came in, I think it was probably about 60 kilometers back to the yards. They were mustered in over a two-day period. Yeah, they just came straight in out of the bush and into the yards, and it is surprising how quickly they settled down once they get into captivity, for being a feral animal,” Taylor said
Almost 100 animals were sold on AuctionsPlus, an online service that normally trades in cattle, sheep and goats.
It is estimated there are at least 300,000 feral camels in central Australia. They can often compete with livestock for scarce supplies of water. Thousands been killed by farmers. They have been declared agricultural pests by state authorities, including Western Australia. Wild herds are also considered to be a health and safety risk to isolated indigenous communities.
The animals were imported from South Asia and elsewhere in the mid-19th century. They were used in colonial Australia as transport, but when they were superseded by motor vehicles, many were released into the wild or escaped. They have, like other invasive species, adapted to Australia’s harsh conditions.
Australia has had a long and disastrous record of importing animals that have become uncontrollable feral pests, including cats, foxes, pigs and cane toads.