The Australian Feral Camel
The ancestors of Australian feral camels were dromedary camels imported to provide transport through inland Australia, which their feral descendants have since made their domain. The increasing numbers of camels, and their impact on native vegetation, is of concern, and feral camels have become minor agricultural pests.
Many different types and breeds of camels were brought into Australia, but most were from India. They included the large, fleece-bearing, two-humped Bactrian camel of China and Mongolia, the elite Bishari riding camel of North Africa and Arabia, the pedigreed Bikaneri war camel of Rajasthan in India, and the powerful, freight-carrying lowland Indian camel, capable of moving huge loads of up to 800 kg or 1,764 lb.
The feral dromedary camels found in Australia are a meld of these breeds but can be split into two types: a slender riding form and a heavier pack animal.
Thousands of camels were imported between 1840 and 1907 to open up the arid areas of central and western Australia. They were used for riding, and as draught and pack animals for exploration and construction of rail and telegraph lines; they were also used to supply goods to remote mines and settlements.
Camels in Australia are the only feral herds of their kind in the world and are estimated to number more than 1,000,000 with the capability of doubling in size every nine years.1 The Australian camels are descendants of camels imported into Australia, beginning in the mid-1800s, to help lay the foundations of the nation. Shipments came largely from the Indian subcontinent, but animals were also landed from Muscat, Yemen, Iraq and the Canary Islands.