The Economic Impact of Feral Camels on Australian Agriculture and Local Communities


As one of the world’s largest feral animal populations, the presence of camels in Australia has had a significant impact on agriculture and local communities. The increasing number of feral camels has disturbed the balance of ecosystems, resulted in severe economic losses, and posed a significant risk to public safety. Despite various management strategies implemented in recent years, the challenge of controlling their population remains. In this article, we will explore the economic impact of feral camels on Australian agriculture and local communities, as well as their environmental and social consequences.

Overview of Australian Feral Camels

Feral camels are a prevalent issue in Australia. These camels, which are descendants of domesticated camels imported from India, were brought to Australia during the 19th century. Camels played a significant role in opening up the Australian interior during the early days of exploration and development. However, as modes of transportation shifted to trucks and trains, the camels were no longer needed, and many were released into the wild.

Today, it is estimated that Australia is home to over one million feral camels, making it the country with the largest wild camel population in the world. Feral camels are widespread in the country and can be found in most Australian states, with the highest populations located in Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory.

Despite their domesticated origins, these animals have adapted well to their new habitat and can survive in the country’s deserts, savannas, and grasslands. They can go without water for several days and can eat almost anything, making them highly resilient in harsh environments.

Feral camels have become a significant problem in Australia, causing a range of issues for local communities, agriculture, and the environment. Their population growth and impact have led to various management strategies, including culling, commercial use, and exportation.

Source: Feral Camels in Australia

Agricultural Damage Caused by Feral Camels

Australia’s unique ecosystem has been facing a significant threat from the increasing population of feral camels. The quantity of feral camels has been growing exponentially since the early 2000s, causing extensive damage to the agricultural industry in Australia. Crop destruction and land damage are major issues caused by the presence of feral camels, negatively impacting the rural economy and local communities. These issues pose a significant challenge to the Australian Government’s efforts to balance environmental conservation with agricultural advancement. Understanding the extent of the problem caused by feral camels is essential to the development of effective management strategies to prevent further damage.

Crop Destruction

Feral camels in Australia cause significant damage to crops, pastures, and other vegetation. They have a broad diet that includes a wide range of plants and crops, and they can consume large amounts of vegetation each day. This overconsumption of vegetation can lead to crop destruction, which can be devastating for local farmers and agricultural businesses.

Farmers often have to spend a lot of money on measures to protect their crops from feral camels, including the installation of fences and other barriers. However, even with these measures in place, feral camels can still find ways to access crops and damage them. In addition to damaging crops, feral camels can also trample on farmland and other vegetation, damaging the soil and making it difficult for plants to grow.

One of the most significant crops affected by feral camels is hay. Hay is a major agricultural product in Australia, with millions of tons produced each year. However, feral camels can destroy hay crops, making it more difficult for farmers to produce enough hay to meet market demand. This can result in higher prices for hay, which in turn can impact other industries that rely on hay, such as the meat and dairy industries.

In addition to crop destruction, feral camels can also impact the flora of the areas they inhabit. They can reduce biodiversity by consuming large amounts of vegetation, which can affect the growth and survival of certain plant species. This can have a knock-on effect on the local ecosystem and lead to further ecological damage.

The impact of feral camels on agriculture in Australia is significant and ongoing. While measures are being taken to control feral camel populations, there is still a long way to go in terms of mitigating the economic impact on farmers and communities.

Link for more information: Feral Camel Control in Australia.

Land Damage

Land Damage: The damage caused by feral camels to the land is significant and expensive to repair. Camels are notorious for their destructive feeding habits, which can devastate whole areas of land. They have a particular preference for woody plants, which they strip of bark and leaves, causing them to die. This can lead to desertification in areas where vegetation is already limited. In addition to the direct damage to plant life, the weight of the camels can also cause soil compaction and erosion. This makes it difficult for plants to grow and for water to filter through the soil, causing further damage to the ecosystem.

According to a study by the Australian government, the estimated annual cost of damage caused by feral camels to pastoral land in Australia is around $7 million AUD. This figure does not include damage to national parks, indigenous land, or private property. The overall cost of damage caused by feral camels in Australia is unknown, but it is believed to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

It is important to note that the damage caused by feral camels is not limited to Australia. Feral camels have also been reported in other parts of the world, such as the United States, where they are causing similar environmental and economic problems. However, the situation in Australia is particularly severe due to the large number of feral camels surviving in desert regions.

Despite the damage caused by feral camels to the land, they have become an integral part of the ecosystem in Australia, where they have lived for over 150 years. The impact of their removal on the environment is unclear, and this is a subject of ongoing debate among scientists and policymakers. For more information on the ecological impact of feral camels in Australia, see our article on ecological impact of feral camels in Australia.

Effects on Indigenous Wildlife

Effects On Indigenous Wildlife
As the feral camel population in Australia continues to grow, so too does its impact on the native wildlife. The effects of these introduced animals on the delicate ecological balance of the Australian wilderness are staggering. The consequences of predation and displacement of native fauna, as well as competition for scarce resources, both exacerbate and are a direct result of habitat loss. This leads to heightened risk of endangerment and extinction for many Australian species. The unique nature of the Australian environment makes it difficult to compare the situation with feral camels in other parts of the world, making it important to focus on the indigenous situation. The situation requires immediate attention and management as we risk losing vital components of Australian wildlife.

Predation on Endangered Species

Feral camels in Australia have been known to predate on many endangered species, causing a significant threat to the survival of these animals. Feral camels were brought to Australia over 150 years ago from Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Since then, they have multiplied and spread widely in the country, causing extensive damage to the environment and agriculture.

Endangered species of flora and fauna that are at risk due to camel predation include:

  • The greater bilby, a small nocturnal marsupial that is now endangered due to habitat loss and predation by feral animals.
  • The plains-wanderer, a small ground-dwelling bird that is critically endangered and found only in specific grassland habitats. Feral camels trample and destroy its habitat, making it difficult for the species to survive.
  • The night parrot, a mysterious, nocturnal bird that was once thought to be extinct until its rediscovery in 2013. Feral camels can cause soil erosion, which destroys the nesting burrows and habitat for the bird.

It is important to note that feral camels are not the only threat to these species as many other feral animals are also responsible for their decline. However, due to the large size and number of feral camels, they can have a particularly devastating impact on already-dwindling populations.

Although feral camels are not native to Australia, their presence is now a significant part of the ecology of the regions they live in. The impact of their predation on endangered species is a pressing issue that needs to be addressed to preserve Australia’s unique biodiversity.

Indigenous Australian communities have lived with feral camels for many years and have been affected by their impact on the environment and agriculture. However, feral camels are not solely an Australian problem, as there are also feral camels in other parts of the world. To learn more about other feral camel situations, check out our article about feral camels in other parts of the world. Additionally, feral camels have remarkably adapted to surviving in the desert ecosystem. To know more about this adaptation, read our article about feral camels surviving in the desert.

Displacement of Native Fauna

The displacement of native fauna is another ecological impact of feral camels in Australia. Due to their large size and population, they have outcompeted and displaced native animals from their natural habitats.

According to a research study, feral camels have been known to displace native animals such as wallabies and kangaroos from their water sources, forcing them to travel further distances for water. This in turn reduces their access to food and increases their vulnerability to predation.

Table 1: Examples of native fauna displacement by feral camels in Australia

| Native Fauna | Displacement by Feral Camels |
| — | — |
| Red kangaroo | Displaced from watering holes due to competition with feral camels |
| Short-beaked echidna | Population reduction due to destruction of burrowing sites |
| Mulgara | Reduced access to food and water sources due to competition with feral camels |
| Greater bilby | Population decline due to competition with feral camels for foraging areas |

The displacement of native animals has far-reaching ecological impacts as it disrupts the balance of the ecosystem. For example, the decline in population of certain species may result in an increase in other species that they prey upon, leading to overpopulation and further ecological imbalances.

The displacement of native fauna by feral camels has also affected the cultural significance of these animals for Indigenous communities in the region. For instance, the kangaroo and wallaby hold significant cultural value and are seen as totems for many Indigenous Australian communities. The displacement of these animals by feral camels has resulted in cultural loss for these communities.

The displacement of native fauna by feral camels is an ecological impact that cannot be ignored. It has resulted in the loss of biodiversity and cultural significance of native animals in Australia. Effective management strategies need to be in place to mitigate this impact and restore the balance of the ecosystem.

Consumption of Scarce Water Resources

Australia is a continent known for its dry and arid climate, with numerous regions facing water scarcity. This issue is only exacerbated by the presence of feral camels in the region, a species that consumes large amounts of water each day to survive. This has a detrimental impact not only on the camels themselves but also on the surrounding ecosystems, as scarce water resources are diverted from native flora and fauna. The consumption of water by feral camels also creates competition with both livestock and human populations in the region. In this section, we will explore the impact of feral camels on the local water supply and the wider ecological consequences of their presence.

Impact on Ecosystems

The impact of feral camels on ecosystems in Australia is significant and far-reaching. Some of the main impacts are:

  • Destruction of vegetation: Feral camels are known to consume large quantities of vegetation in their search for food and water. This includes native plants as well as crops grown by farmers. This can lead to the loss of vegetation cover, soil erosion, and reduced biodiversity.
  • Damage to wetlands: Feral camels are known to damage wetland areas by trampling vegetation, disturbing water sources, and causing soil erosion. Wetland ecosystems are important breeding grounds for many species of birds and fish, so this can have a knock-on effect on local biodiversity.
  • Disruption of natural processes: The presence of feral camels can also disrupt natural processes such as seed dispersal and nutrient cycling. This can have a significant impact on ecosystem health and functioning, leading to reduced productivity and biodiversity.

These impacts can be especially concerning in arid and semi-arid environments, where ecosystems are already fragile and sensitive to disturbance. As such, there is a need for effective management strategies to help mitigate the impact of feral camels on ecosystems and promote sustainable land use.

Competition with Livestock and Human Populations

The competition with livestock and human populations is another significant impact of feral camels on Australian agriculture and local communities. With their large populations, feral camels compete with livestock and human populations for scarce resources such as food and water. This competition can have severe economic and ecological consequences for these communities.

Feral camels have been known to raid pastoral properties, trampling and consuming crops and drinking water meant for livestock. This competition for resources can drive up the cost of food and water for livestock and producers. To illustrate this impact, we can compare the water consumption of a single feral camel to that of multiple sheep or cattle. A feral camel can consume up to 200 liters of water in a single session, which is equivalent to the daily water requirement of around 20 sheep or 5 cattle. This leaves less water available for livestock, and can ultimately affect their growth and productivity.

Feral camels also compete with humans for access to water sources in rural communities. They have been known to damage infrastructure such as pipes and wells, causing shortages or contamination of water supplies. This can lead to increased costs for repair and maintenance, as well as decreased availability and quality of water for human consumption.

The competition with livestock and human populations can also have ecological consequences. As feral camels consume vegetation and cause soil erosion, they alter the composition of ecosystems, affecting biodiversity and reducing the productivity of grazing lands. This has far-reaching effects on the health and sustainability of ecosystems in the region.

To summarize, the competition with livestock and human populations is a significant impact of feral camels on Australian agriculture and local communities. Measures need to be taken to address this issue and protect the resources that support these communities.

| Impact of Feral Camels on Livestock and Human Populations |
| – Feral camels compete with livestock for scarce resources such as food and water |
| – Competition can lead to increased costs and reduced productivity for livestock |
| – Feral camels also compete with humans for access to water sources in rural communities |
| – Damage to infrastructure can cause water shortages or contamination |
| – Competition can have ecological consequences, altering the composition of ecosystems and reducing biodiversity |

Risk to Public Safety

Risk To Public Safety
The presence of feral camels in Australia not only poses significant ecological challenges, but it also raises a crucial issue of public safety. As the largest feral camel population in the world, Australia is facing several risks that threaten both human life and property. These risks range from vehicle collisions to the aggressive behaviors and disease transmission that feral camels are capable of. It is essential to consider the potential consequences of these risks and evaluate the strategies that can prevent them. In this section, we will outline the risks to public safety posed by feral camels and the management practices that are being employed to control them.

Vehicle Collisions

Vehicle collisions with feral camels have become a significant public safety concern in many parts of Australia. The size and weight of adult camels, which can weigh up to 1,000 kg, mean that collisions with these animals can result in serious damage to vehicles and potentially life-threatening injuries to drivers and passengers.

Some key points to consider include:

  • Feral camels have a tendency to move in large herds
  • They often cross highways and roads in search of water and food sources
  • Collisions with vehicles can occur both during the day and at night
  • The size and weight of adult camels mean that they can cause serious damage to vehicles
  • The risk of injury to drivers and passengers increases significantly in the event of a collision with a feral camel
  • There have been several reported cases of fatalities resulting from collisions with feral camels

Given the potentially serious consequences of vehicle collisions with feral camels, many communities and local governments have implemented measures to try to reduce the risk of these accidents occurring. These measures include increasing signage and speed limit reductions in areas where feral camels are known to be present. Additionally, many drivers are encouraged to exercise caution when driving in areas where feral camels are known to reside.

Aggressiveness and Disease Transmission

Feral camels pose a risk to public safety not only because of their size and strength, but also due to their aggressiveness and potential for disease transmission. Camels can become extremely aggressive when threatened or startled, which can result in attacks on humans or other animals. Additionally, camels are known carriers of various diseases, including tuberculosis, brucellosis, and Q fever, which can be transmitted to humans and other animals.

Feral camels can carry and spread parasites and other disease-causing organisms, particularly in their excrement. Their large numbers and tendency to congregate in certain areas mean that they can create significant environmental contamination, particularly in water sources that are also used by humans and livestock. This poses a significant risk to public health and safety, particularly in remote areas where medical facilities and resources may be limited.

To combat these risks, various management strategies have been implemented, including culling and aerial shooting, as well as the development of the camel industry for exportation. However, despite these efforts, the feral camel population in Australia continues to grow, presenting ongoing challenges for the agricultural sector and local communities.

Current Management Strategies

As the damage caused by feral camels in Australia grows increasingly evident, efforts to control their population have become a pressing concern. A range of management strategies have been implemented, each with their own challenges and limitations. In this section, we will explore some of the current methods being used to control the feral camel population and mitigate the economic, environmental, and social impacts inflicted by these invasive creatures.

Culling and Aerial Shooting

Current management strategies for controlling feral camel populations in Australia include culling and aerial shooting. Culling involves the targeted killing of individual camels or groups of camels by professional hunters. Aerial shooting involves shooting camels from helicopters, which allows hunters to cover large distances over difficult terrain and locate hard-to-reach feral camel populations.

Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. Culling is a more selective approach and can help reduce the number of problem animals, but it can also be time-consuming and labor-intensive. Aerial shooting is more efficient in terms of time and resources, but it can be indiscriminate and can result in the death of non-target species or the injury of camels but not their immediate death.

Culling Aerial Shooting
Targeted approach Efficient approach
Can reduce problem animals Covers large distances and hard-to-reach areas
Time-consuming and labor-intensive Indiscriminate and can result in non-target species deaths
Injury of camels but not their immediate death

Despite these drawbacks, both culling and aerial shooting have proven to be effective in reducing feral camel populations in certain areas of Australia. However, these methods alone may not be sufficient to control the population growth of feral camels in the long term.

In recent years, the Australian government has also explored the use of the camel industry, such as domesticating and exporting feral camels for their meat and hides, as an alternative management strategy. This approach provides an economic incentive for the removal of feral camels from the wild, rather than simply killing them.

Culling and aerial shooting are two management strategies used to control feral camel populations in Australia, but they have their limitations. The Australian government is exploring alternative strategies, such as the camel industry, to address the issue of feral camels and their impact on the environment and local communities.

Camel Industry and Exportation

The camel industry in Australia is a controversial issue, as it involves both the exploitation and conservation of these feral animals. However, there are those who see the economic potential of the camel industry, particularly in the exportation of camel meat, milk, and hides to Middle Eastern and Asian markets.

Camel Meat is considered a delicacy in many countries, and has a strong demand in the Middle East and Asia. In fact, the Australian camel meat industry has grown significantly in recent years, with exports increasing from 160 tonnes in 2009 to over 800 tonnes in 2019. Camel meat is low in fat and high in protein, making it a popular alternative to other red meats.

Camel Milk is also in high demand in the Middle East, particularly for its supposed health benefits. Camel milk is said to have higher levels of iron and vitamin C than cow’s milk, and is believed to aid in the treatment of diabetes and other health conditions. The Australian camel milk industry has seen significant growth in recent years, with exports increasing from 32,000 litres in 2013 to over 170,000 litres in 2019.

Camel Hides are another potential source of income within the camel industry. Camel hides are used to make leather products, such as shoes, bags, and furniture. While the market for camel hides is less established than that for meat and milk, there is potential for growth in this area.

Despite the potential economic benefits of the camel industry, there are those who argue that it is not a sustainable solution to the feral camel problem. Critics argue that exporting camels for meat and milk may not be a long-term solution, as demand may decrease or shift to other products. Additionally, there are concerns about the welfare of the camels, as well as the potential impact on the environment.

While the camel industry may provide short-term economic benefits, it is important to consider the potential long-term effects on both the feral camel population and the larger ecosystem.

Product Market Export Quantity (2019)
Camel Meat Middle East and Asia Over 800 tonnes
Camel Milk Middle East Over 170,000 litres
Camel Hides Local and international leather industries Potential for growth


After examining the various impacts of feral camels on Australian agriculture and local communities, it is clear that action needs to be taken to address this issue. The sheer number of camels, estimated to be over one million, and their ability to adapt to various environments make them a formidable challenge.

The agricultural damage caused by feral camels is significant, with crop destruction and land damage affecting the economic livelihood of farmers. Additionally, the impact on Indigenous wildlife, including predation on endangered species and displacement of native fauna, further disrupts the local ecosystem.

The consumption of scarce water resources by feral camels has a ripple effect on the entire environment, impacting other species and competing with livestock and human populations. The risk to public safety, including vehicle collisions and disease transmission, cannot be ignored.

Current management strategies, such as culling and aerial shooting, have been largely ineffective in reducing the feral camel population. However, the potential for the camel industry and exportation is a promising opportunity for managing the camel population while also providing an economic benefit.

In conclusion, a comprehensive and sustainable approach is necessary to address the impact of feral camels on Australian agriculture and local communities. This will require collaboration between government, industry, and communities to develop innovative and effective solutions. Failure to adequately address this issue will have long-term consequences for the environment, economy, and public safety.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1?

What is the origin of feral camels in Australia?


Feral camels in Australia have been introduced by the British in the 19th century for transportation and exploration purposes.

Question 2?

What is the estimated population of feral camels in Australia?


The estimated population of feral camels in Australia is over one million.

Question 3?

How do feral camels affect agricultural production?


Feral camels can cause damage to crops and land which can result in loss of income for farmers.

Question 4?

What are the risks associated with feral camels in terms of public safety?


Feral camels can cause vehicle collisions and can be aggressive towards humans. They may also transmit diseases.

Question 5?

What is the impact of feral camels on indigenous wildlife?


Feral camels can predate on endangered species and displace native fauna.

Question 6?

How do feral camels affect the availability of water resources?


Feral camels consume water resources that are scarce in some regions of Australia which leads to competition with other species for water access.

Question 7?

Do feral camels have any economic benefits?


Yes, there is a small industry of live exports and camel milk production that provides some economic benefits.

Question 8?

What is the most common management strategy for controlling the feral camel population?


The most common management strategy for controlling the feral camel population is culling and aerial shooting.

Question 9?

Can feral camels be relocated or domesticated for commercial purposes?


There have been attempts to relocate and domesticate feral camels with little success due to their wild nature.

Question 10?

What is the outlook for managing the feral camel population in Australia?


The management of feral camels in Australia remains a challenge, but current strategies aim to reduce the population and minimize their impact on agricultural production, the environment, and public safety.