AE 636 – The Goss: Why Australia’s Culling 10,000 Camels

In this episode of the Goss, I chat with my father Ian Smissen about the week’s news in Australia. Why are we culling 10,000 camels Down Under?

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G'day you mob. Welcome to this episode of The Goss, where I sit down and have a bit of a chinwag with my old man each week about the week's gossip. The week's news from the Land Down Under. And maybe other bits of the world, too. Depends what comes up, I guess. Anyway, today's episode is the second instalment of The Goss. We've got a good one for you today. So kick back, relax, grab a cuppa and listen to us have a bit of a yarn, have a bit of a chat about whether or not Australia's animals are really that dangerous in the grand scheme of things. We compare America and Australia, especially things like spiders, snakes, crocs, sharks. You know, Australia's got a bad rep, it's got a bad rap, but it's not that bad in real life. You'll see. You'll see. And beyond that, we talk about this week's cull of camels. There was a bit of an uproar in the news where people were up in arms. They were losing it. They were going bananas because 10000 camels had to be put down. They had to be shot in order to control numbers. Anyway, without any further ado, guys, play the kookaburra and let's get into this episode. Dad, welcome to episode number two of The Goss.

Hey, Pete, good to be here again.

What did you think of the name? You can be honest. You said you were saying it reminded you of a friend's surname.

Yeah, I had old... Well, yeah, they're... One's older than me. One's younger than me. But I'm friends with the surname "Goss" and I immediately went, oh yes, I remember them.

So what does it mean if I say what's the goss? Do you use that?

Yeah. Yeah. Obviously it's an abbreviation of gossip.

Do you ever use that personally?

Yeah. I don't think it frequently comes out of my mouth. It is a statement or a comment of which I am aware and I probably do use occasionally.

Do you think that's Australian? Or do you think we ripped it off from the US?

No, it'll be Australian.

You reckon?

Americans tend not to abbreviate things like Australians do.

So anyway, today's episode is going to be about news, obviously, that's been around this week in the tubes online. Before we get into the meat of it, because we want to talk about the camel cull and obviously dive into the history of camels in Australia, how they got here, what they're doing here and why they're a problem. Did you hear about any other interesting stories on the news this week?

Look, most of the news is still been bushfires. Yeah, yeah. We're fortunate that we've had a lot of rain in southeastern Australia today.

It's been pissing down rain.

It has. Yeah. And I hope that's been helping. But it's still most of the news is just dominated by rain and fires and sport. Of course, it's... Which is January in Australia.

Well, that's it. And you've been enjoying a non-Australian sport recently. I was over at your house on... Was it yesterday or the day before?

Yeah. Watching the National College Football Championships in America.

Yeah, I know. So you're enjoying that more than the cricket at the moment?

Well you know, the cricket's on at night because Australia is in India playing at the moment. And there's the Big Bash League which is our T20 or 2020 competition locally. That's on in the evening as well. So daytime is dominated by American sport.

So the only thing I remember this week from the news was a shark attack in Western Australia. Did you hear about that one?


That the... I think the guy was diving for... I don't know if it was abalone or some kind of...


Something. Yeah... But I think his fins and shorts appeared somewhere.


And they...


Yeah. That's it, so it looks like a great white got him. How common are shark attacks in Australia, dad? They're not something that people should be worried about.

No. If you're worried about shark attacks then you would never cross the street. You are a thousand times more likely to be run over by a car than you are to be bitten by a shark. And that's not even killed by a shark, that's being bitten by a shark.

Yeah, but that's one of those things. People always freaking out about the animals. Right. And I was reading a post... I can't remember who said this the other day about going to the US... Oh! It was on the Joe Rogan podcast. Great podcast if you guys don't know of it, but it was an Australian guest, And he was asked about Australian animals versus American animals. And Joe Rogan's obviously like, you know, "Australia's fucked, you've got crocs, you got sharks, you got snakes, you got spiders, you got know insects up the wazoo." And this guy's a hunter. And he's like, "mate, for the last 12 months, I've seen two snakes in the wild every single day.".

Exactly right.

So and then it was funny because he was like, "the thing that's fucked up is that I come to the US and in the first week I've seen 30 rattlesnakes." And he's like, "what's up with that? Like we have deadly snakes in Australia, but you never see them. But in the US, rattlesnakes at least," you know, I guess that's the what? The western part of the continent there in the dry areas are everywhere.

Yeah. I was on a day trip to... A four-wheel-drive trip down into the Grand Canyon in Arizona a few years ago. And the guide, while he was talking to us, gave us the warning about, you know, he said, in Arizona, "everything will prick you, stick you, you bite, you sting, or will make you sick if you eat it." And we think of Australia as being dangerous in the outdoors, but it really isn't.

Well, and I'm sure from your experience travelling around Australia, meeting people, doing biology at university as well, I'm sure that the majority of people you know who've been bitten by any of those animals probably worked with them or you got too close to them. Whilst working with them. So for me, one of the guys I know who has been bitten by a Taipan was Ross. He's on the podcast talking about snakes and what to do if you get bitten by them. And he was in, I think Western Australia there and was trying to photograph one and just misjudged how close he was to the animal. And it got his hand. But obviously, he was right there in front... He's a snake expert, too, and he was right in front of it. He got bitten by it, which is, you know, much more common than the average person.

Yeah, I think the average people who get bitten by snakes, and this is sort of a bit of folklore. I don't know that there's been a lot of documented studies of it, but I suspect it is true that the majority of people who get bitten by snakes are trying to kill them.

Yeah. Yeah. With a shovel...

They're actually getting too close. They trying to hit them with a stick or hit them with a shovel or do something like that. You know, the snakes... Most snakes that you see are going to be sleeping or...

They're going to be pissing their butt while they're running off in the other direction.

They will have taken off before you get to see them.

Well, I remember that being... I think it was the You Yangs. Was that where we were when I shat myself?

That was up at the Mount Alexander, near Bendigo.

Okay. So we were near Bendigo. And I remember... you could tell the story if you want.

Oh, I didn't see the actual event. All I remember is seeing you bolting out of the Bush!

With my dick out! So it's like, without getting too crass, the story is that I had to really go to the toilet. I was busting to take a piss and I walked off the track, which is quite common.

Pete was about 10 years old at the time, since we're missing the context.

It wasn't last week. And so I walked off the track. I sort of scurried a little bit down the mountains. And there were those... I guess the bush here is really dry. Yeah. You know, sunlight hits the ground. So a lot of snakes do come out and sunbathe.

Lots of leaf litter and stuff like that.

Lots of rocks. And so I was getting ready to take a piss. I, you know, pulled the member out and was getting ready. And as I looked down, there was a brown snake at my feet, asleep, just curled up. And as soon as I moved, it lifted its head. But it didn't have time, I was out of there. And I shat myself like I was screaming like "there's a fucking snake!" And the snakes probably just gone back to sleep. But yeah, that was the closest encounter I think I've had apart from catching one up at the farm when I was a little kid. That was in winter, didn't count. What about funnel webs? Should you be worried about them comparatively with sharks, crocodiles and snakes?

Yeah, probably. But again, very few people get bitten by them.

These are funnel web spiders?

We don't have them in Melbourne.

They're in Sydney, right? Well, actually, we do. We have funnel web spiders here.

Yeah, we have a different species of funnel web spider. That animal take you a lot longer to kill you than the one in Sydney. But the Sydney funnel web, as it is not officially known, but often called...

At least it gives you a warning and its name. Where not to go. Yeah.

And the look, the big challenge with them is that they are relatively common, but they also live in just backyard gardens. You know, they live in... They'll build their funnels, as they're called because they're attack predators. They sit in a funnel web.

So they've dug in a little tunnel.

built a funnel around it, and then sit in it waiting. And when something comes past a leap out and bite it and pull it back in. So most people who get bitten by them are out doing gardening. You know, they'll just be picking up leaf litter or raking over stuff with their hands and get bitten on their hand.

I think they're kind of frightening because they... another part of their biology, especially for the males, is that the males will wander around actively in, I think the spring season, maybe the end of winter, spring, looking for females to mate with. And I think for them, they're kind of in a tumultuous situation, too, because quite often they get eaten by the female. So the males will go around and they look for anything that's a hole or a warm, damp location hoping there's a female in there. And so if you leave your shoes outside, they're likely to go in that and they can get in pools and you can they can live. They trap the air with the hairs on their on their body. And so they don't die very quickly when they fall in the pools. If you're swimming around in the backyard pool, you can catch one.

But yeah, I again, I haven't looked at the statistics, but I don't... I can't remember the last time a person in Australia died of a spider bite. There's lots of occasions of spider bites. But we're so good now, the science is so good with the antivenins, too. If you get to hospital in time, then you know you're cured fairly quickly.

Looks like here there'd been no deaths in Australia that have been confirmed from a spider bite since 1979. There you go. What's that? Forty years. Yeah, and not since anti-venom was brought in for the red back spider in the funnel web. And I think they're the only two spiders in Australia...

They're deadly...

But there was a funny story I remember in the news awhile back about the redback spider, and these things are everywhere.

Like, oh, yeah, they'll live in your yard here.

Yeah. And well, I remember going up to Nan and Grandpa's farm and he had a big-ass shed for equipment and cars out in the backyard that's made out of corrugated iron or whatever. This huge, you know, metal shed and there used to be hundreds of them around underneath the coping under the shed that was holding it up. they would be everywhere. But there was a guy in the news last year, who got bitten on the penis twice by the same spider. So he was a tradie and he went to the outdoor dunny they had there and there was a spider under the under the toilet seat that got him. But he went to the hospital. And then next week when he came back, he obviously didn't...

Didn't think! Bit slow!

Got done again. Yes. So that is a legit story.

That was well, there's that old folk song, modern folk song in Australia about the red back on the toilet seat. Look it up, Don't ask me to sing it! And that's a common one because again, they live in know, dark, damp places underneath outback toilets.

Another one of those animals that you'll only really see if you go looking for them. Really. And then for me I always remembered finding them because I'd be lifting up rocks looking for lizards and skinks and frogs and stuff at the farm or out in the bush. And every time we lift up a rock and you see those white balls, that you know that they're the egg mass, from a female.

Yeah. And look, they're Redbacks so the venom is deadly and they do bite. Hence, you know, people have died of redback bites.

but that's probably, too, because they don't know and they just leave it, right.

But the fangs are very small, unlike the funnel web where, you know,

it's frightening. They can go through your toenail.

Yeah, exactly. They go through gardening gloves.

It's like a knife from a spider.

Whereas redbacks, you could have one in the palm of your hand and it couldn't get through the calluses on your fingers. Put it on the back of your hand and it could.

There was a guy on line who freehandled a redback when he came to Australia. Coyote Peterson or whatever his name was, the guy who's like a wildlife YouTuber. And he came out to Australia and freehandled one. not recommending that you do that. But yeah. So I guess, yeah, dangerous animals wise coming to Australia, you shouldn't really be afraid too much. I'd be more worried about humans. You're much more likely to be killed by one.

The one dangerous animal in Australia that does kill tourists are crocodiles.

Wow. It's probably more likely to be dogs. Horses.

Oh yeah. But there every year we have one or two tourists that not necessarily get killed but get taken by crocodiles.

And these are quite often Australian tourists, too, right?

Oh, yeah.

People who just have no idea. They don't locals from that area, they tend to be people who've gone north to Queensland or the Northern Territory.

With the estuarine crocodiles or saltwater crocodiles. They live in saltwater and freshwater and they will be up to 100 kilometres or more upstream in some of the large rivers in northern Australia. And people go, it's hot, it's humid all times of the year. And I think, oh, yeah, this is safe. I just I can't see anything. I'll just go for a swim.

And the water's clear.

The water's clear.

Don't do it.

Don't camp right beside the...

Yeah. Watch Crocodile Dundee. Don't fill up your water bottle at the edge of the water. Anyway, I guess moving on the camels...

Yeah, camels.

So there's been a cull announced, and it's probably already happened.

Yeah, it probably has. Yes.

Was it meant to start today. Or was it last week on Wednesday?

I think it was last week. But this is one of these news stories that hits the news when it's going to happen. But when it actually does happen, the story's died down. So the big anti-cull campaign's come out, people campaigning against killing big furry animals, which... it's never a pleasant topic when you say we're going to go out and kill camels. Now, camels are pretty nasty animals as individual personalities of camels, but as an animal, there's not much wrong with them. So when a government announces that they're going to kill 10000 of them, then yeah, you can understand why people will get up in arms.

I think the number freaks people out too. Right. If you were to say that, you know, we're going to go out and kill 10000 koalas, people would be like, you know, are up in arms. But in some places they've had to do that too.

Probably not 10000, but...

Not 10000. They've had to call them because they are eating each other out and they're all going to die if they leave them there and they all eat.

A lot of a lot of the culling of koalas historically has been removal where they're actually picking them up from one place and putting them into another.

So they're not killing them.

To a Suitable habitat that has a low population of koalas. but with camels, it's... there are simply too many of them. And in the drought that we've had that we talked about last week in relation to bushfires, there's very little water around. There's very little pasture around. So there's not much for them to eat. So they are congregating in areas where there is water there, destroying waterholes. They destroying whatever pasture is still there. But they're also killing each other. Examples where they've been trampling other camels to get to water. Yeah. Yeah, there are so many of them around waterholes.

it's one of those things that you have to kind of be quick... I mean, you have to try to avoid being quick to form an opinion on this thing, especially when you're not out there experiencing it. Because I feel like a lot of people are like, oh, my God, don't kill the camels, but you don't live in a remote community in the middle of nowhere with very little water and very little infrastructure which is getting destroyed by all these camels. And so, yeah, it's very easy to say don't kill the animal without knowing the facts behind it. And that was... I was really surprised looking into this. I read up on the history of camels and, you know, stats on them and some of these stories. And there was some remote communities, I think, in Western Australia that during this drought, as you were saying, they... camels can lose up to 30 percent of their water, too, in their body. Yeah. And still be fine. Like, what the hell? Can you imagine if we were dehydrated to that point? That's Pat Rafter playing, right?

Yeah, but it's an exaggeration because that 30 per cent is the 30 per cent of them fully saturated.

Including their hump.

Including their... Well the hump is mostly fat.

It's water potential.

Yes it is. They can convert it to water by breaking it down for energy, but a lot of it is that they just have very large stomachs and they will fill their stomach with water.

Yeah. What I've got 120 litres in the 13 minutes. That's how much they can drink. So what's that? That's like a bath. One camel can drink a bath in 13 minutes.

And Carry that around.

Faster than it takes to fill the bath. But, um, yeah, the thing in Western Australia in these remote communities was that there's some messed up things like camels can smell water five kilometres away. Yeah. What the fuck? Like a shark can smell blood 250 metres away. So that's, you know, a quarter of a kilometre. And this thing is...

Well, they're actually take humidity gradients, is what it is.

Isn't that insane? And so what they're doing is they're congregating or they're being attracted like zombies. Right towards the sound.

They're coming towards the little town water supplies.

And they're completely chewing up taps, wires, you know, everything that's got the water in it. Toilets.

Knocking down fences.

Yeah. And just there was one town that had 3000 to 5000 camels walking around its streets. And so it was an indigenous community. And this was the reason they're doing the cull. I think the actual town where that happened is the problem. And they're worried about their children playing outside because these camels can kill a child.

They're nasty animals and they're big.

Yes, that's it. So imagine that with those wandering around. And there were a few issues I was looking at... I guess we should go through the history and everything first.

Well we can do that. But I mean, actually, that's probably a good thing to talk about, because in addition to just the immediate challenges of camels, there's the environmental case of camels. Camels didn't evolve in Australia. So, yeah, our habitats, outback habitats have not evolved with camels there. So they are destroying habitat. They will eat a lot more than kangaroos. Wallabies.

80 per cent of the vegetation in the outback, they can pick apart and eat and get energy from, which I would imagine is more than the average mammal in the outback. Probably isn't adapted to eat that kind of percentage.

Exactly. So yeah. So they came here in the 1860s. Yeah. The first ones came in 1859. They were... I think there were three that were here, you know, randomly imported.

No. So I looked it up. So it was 1822. They were first suggested to come by Danish French geographer Conrad Multe-Bruun, and he was like "oxen would be great for the woods and thickets, mules for stony and rocky areas and hilly country and dromedaries for the Sandy Desert." And then in 1840, between 2 and 6 were imported from the Canary Islands by the Phillips Brothers in Adelaide. And the reason I wanted to interrupt you there is because only one of them survived. And this camel was called Harry, and he's also known as the camel who killed his owner.

So they are nasty animals.

Well, the funny thing is he shot his owner with a gun. And the story is interesting. So apparently a John Aynesworth Horrocks, I think he's an explorer, was wanting to explore the interior of Australia, looking for pasture, for cows and sheep. He was on the night of the 1846 expedition to arid South Australia near Lake Torrens in search of new agricultural land. And he became the first man to be shot by his own camel. On September the 1st, Horrocks was preparing to shoot a bird on the shores of Lake Dutton. His kneeling camel moved while Horrocks was reloading his gun and fatally injured him. It shot off his middle finger and it took out a row teeth. And it took him a week to die from infection. But before he died, he ordered that Harry would be euthanized. Well put down. So there you go. The first camel that came to Australia killed its owner.

Yeah. And then the next lot of camels came. I think they were 24 camels that were introduced by the Victorian government for the Burke and Wills expedition.

And why were they brought for the Burke and Wills expedition?

That was the idea of that expedition, was to travel from the south coast to the north coast. So they travelled from Melbourne and they wanted to go all the way to the Gulf of Carpentaria,.

Which is Darwin,.

Yeah, northern Australia. First, people to cross the country from north to south


And the only way of getting through deserts and carrying a lot of stuff was by camels, because horses simply couldn't survive. They did have horses with them. They had horses. And I think they had oxen as well, pulling carts and stuff.

And a lot of them, though, they ended up shooting and shooting and eating.

Again, like we could probably dedicate a separate episode, not the news episode. The one to Burke and Wills be it is the most farcical expedition in the history of humanity.

We'll look into it.

It's tragic

but funny and tragic as it is.

You could not write this as fiction and have people believe it. So they were introduced then. That was 1859 I think. And then in the 1860s there were a lot of explorations as you were talking about in the 1840s with explorers. But a lot more explorations into outback South Australia looking for pasture, but also looking for continuing to get that south to north connection. Yeah. There was a telegraph line being built to connect Australia to the rest of the world.

So that was the Overland Telegraph Line?

Overland Telegraph that was running from Adelaide to what we would now call Darwin. It wasn't called Darwin at the time. And then because it was a telegraph line that they could connect up through to Jakarta in Indonesia.

To get news from the rest of the world.

To get news to and from the rest of the world. And so... and amongst other things, it was for pastoral properties and so on. And so one of the ways of creating those expeditions and including animals to help them out was to import camels and they imported cameleres as well. People who, you know, managed and looked after the camels and they were known as Afghans.


Most of them were not from Afghanistan. They were from what at the time was known as British India.

Included Pakistan?

Yeah. Various states of what we now call India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, all of which were India broadly at the time. But the British Commonwealth or the Empire at the time had effectively... not colonised but taken over the government of about half the states in that original India. And they were using camels a lot for transport there. And so we imported them from there as well as the people to manage them. But for whatever reason, they were just called Afghans. And then that got shortened in a typical Australian way to "ghans." G. H. A. N. And we still have a train that runs from Adelaide to Darwin and it memorialises them as the Ghan, the train.

This would have been the first Muslims to immigrate to Australia, right?

En masse. Probably. There may well have been individual Muslims who had come to Australia that the first sort of large group of Muslims... And they still... they operated as Muslims and carried on their faith and their culture that way. And there are still large populations in Outback's at large, relatively in outback South Australia who have got direct ancestry to these. The town of Murray in central South Australia has got a lot of people who claim their heritage comes from the ghans, because that town... the town has actually been created since that time. But that town is on a location where there was a large sort of camp of Afghans because it became the sort of branch line, if you like, that, you know, people came from Adelaide to Murrie. And then there were various other routes that they took to get into different places of South Australia from there. So they had a permanent population of cameleres and camels and infrastructure to support a lot of this sort of exploration and infrastructure building.

It's pretty interesting because I think they... So the camels were sort of first really used in Australia from I guess the 40s, 1840s to the 1860s around there, all the way up until about the early 1910s, 1920s, 1930s.

1920s that they... that the camels stop being used.

They got supplanted by motorised transport right?

Yeah. Well trains before that and then trucks to transport things.

Well that was the big issue because I think they were sort of supplanted in the early 20th century. And at that time there were 15000 camels in Australia and the large majority of them were not put down, not kept, they were just let go into the wild, which was the sort of way in Australia with feral animals. That's pretty much how they get here. They get let go.


So, yeah, They will let go into the wild. And the interesting thing was that up until 1969 there were between 15000 to 20000. In the next 20 years, it doubled to about 43000. And then by 2008 we had a million camels in Australia. So... And for context, guys, you've probably heard a lot about koalas recently in Australia. And I believe that there are only... I have the number here somewhere, several hundred thousand. I think it's about 300000 koalas in Australia. So for context, there's more than three times as many camels in Australia in the wild than there are koalas, at least at the time.

There were then. Not now, but there had been. And ironically, there was a very large cull then that nobody took any notice off then and now I think certainly... 2012. I think there was an estimate of being about 300000.

That's it. So they got down to that.

And it's probably gone up since then, obviously.

Yeah. And the problem is that the number doubles now every eight to 10 years. So if we weren't to cull them and try and control the numbers, you'd have two million by 2030, which would be a massive issue. Yeah.

And that's the largest population of wild camels anywhere in the world. It's probably the only viable population of wild camels. There will be the odd wild camels in other places in in Asia and the Middle East. But yeah, these are originally Arabian camels taken by the British to British India and then coming here. But to my knowledge, there's no sustainable wild population in the Middle East where those camels originated. Off on.

Well, the crazy thing is that apparently, according to Wikipedia, the dry Madeira, the one humped camel, hasn't occurred naturally in the wild for over 2000 years. So since the time of Christ and it was domesticated in Somalia and the Arabian Peninsula about 4000 years ago, and it was wild in arid regions, including the Sahara Desert in the old world and in Africa, obviously. But yeah, I didn't realise we have both the two humped and the one humped camels...

Yeah, there's bactrian camels in Australia as well. Very few, comparatively. But there are some wild ones here.

These ones are from India. Where are they from?

China and Mongolia.

And they're more adapted to not desert environments, per say.

The cold, arid environments, not hot deserts.

Anyway. So what do you think about the cull? is it going to be enough because it's been said to sort of be a Band-Aid on the issue?

Look, it's a Band-Aid in the sense that the... as you said, the original trigger was, you know, one town that clearly had some issues and that just needed a fix then. But that fix is not going to affect the total population in Australia. And the proposal was culling 10000. and if you're going to take ten thousand eight hundred thousand. It's a pimple on the backside of a flea on the dog. So, you know, from an ecological point of view, it's not going to make any difference. So if we really wanted to cull, we would have to make significant efforts to cull.

Well, it's crazy because there were some stories in their farms, for example, having, you know, these big farms in the arid outback of Australia that are thousands of square kilometres and they have fencing there. And during these droughts, these camels move around a lot more and just.

Destroying that fence.

Yeah. And the fences were costing this this farmer that I saw interviewed hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix. So these camels, I think, was estimated they were costing ten million dollars a year in damage. And there were there were a few farmers of camels who were quite irritated at the culls because they were sort of like, this is a massive waste. These animals have a lot of value in the Middle East because there are... I think places like Saudi Arabia who race them actually export them from Australia.

Yeah, yeah. We export them to Saudi Arabia for racing purposes. Yeah, but yeah, we'll export 100.

but I think... Yeah, exactly... But we need to probably shift on to turning them into a commercial product. Right. Turning them into dog food or eating them ourselves. Right. Because that would be at least a monetary use for them. Yeah. And they're obviously thriving in our environment.

Well you were talking about the cattle stations and sheep stations in the outback, particularly cattle stations which are in the more arid places than sheep stations there. They've got... their carrying capacity is typically one head of cattle per square kilometre. And they will have more than one cattle per square kilometre


So, you know, and a camel will eat more than a cow,

but it doesn't need as much water, which is probably the restricting factor for the cow. Right.

Right. So, yeah, there are... those pastures are being destroyed by feral populations of an animal. Now, we could argue, and a lot of people are arguing, that... Well does it matter if we've got cattle out there because the cattle are actually doing more environmental damage by being there, which is true. Camels are actually less damaging to... Physical damage to the ground because they've got soft feet.

Well, if that's the only metric...

And you can always make an argument to suit whichever side of these things you want to know if you want to pick out one particular fact. So, yeah, there's the counterargument to that is, well, let's just don't eat meat. You know,.

The camels are still there.

Camels are still there. Funnily enough, we're not going to go out and cull all the cattle, we would let them go. If we stopped eating cattle.

So one of the things here so I got from the National Feral Camel Action Plan said that Broad Land.

Got an acronym?

Yeah. I don't know? NFCAP. NFCAP. broad landscape damage, including damage to vegetation through foraging behaviour and trampling, suppression of recruitment of some plant species, selective browsing on rare and threatened flora, damage to wetlands through fouling, trampling and sedimentation, competition with native animals for food and shelter, and the loss of sequestered carbon in vegetation that they're eating and then farting out as methane. So they're actually a problem for climate change. But one of the other interesting things was the social factor, where for a lot of indigenous communities they're having a massive negative effect on indigenous sites of importance, whether it's about food, cultural sites or religious sites or even some of the burial sites that they have, the camels are damaging them. So, yeah, obviously, I think I would have all camels removed tomorrow if possible, unless they could be a good argument made for, you know, keeping a small population of them under control or whatever, because they're harming people, they're harming our economy, they're harming the native environment, the natural environment. And the problem is, if you say things like, you know, don't kill ten thousand camels because it's harming animals and you shouldn't kill animals, those camels are actually probably leading to millions of deaths of native animals and not to mention plants.

And other camels.


And that's the thing. If you use the animal welfare argument, you don't kill camels because they're, you know, nice, fluffy animals. And then we've got a population of thousands of camels in a very small area. And the reason they're in that small area is because there is a bit of water, then they are likely to be adversely affecting each other. They are going to die and they're going to kill more of them than if we just shot half of them.

Well it's one of those weird situations, right, where... I dunno if there is a word to describe these situations where you think you're doing something good, but it's leading to...

A worse outcome of doing nothing...

Because not culling them leads to much more painful deaths than a bullet through the head from a sniper. Right. So these camels, although they're getting killed, are dying instantly. And then obviously, you know, being removed or being left to feed the other native animals and vegetation and everything. But yeah, I definitely think they should be capitalised upon or completely removed.

And we're never going to completely remove them. That's... I say never, The political and economic effort required to do that is probably something that is not going to happen. There were probably better things to spend our money on. For the same outcomes. But certainly I think the culling has... it makes sense on all levels. So it's a hard one to argue against.

The last thing I wanted to mention here was about disease. I didn't realize that... And I've got this from an article online. I can't remember which one. I've got a quote here, though. Diseases and parasites don't have a major impact on feral camels in Australia. And it's probably the same for other feral animals in Australia, which is a big reason they thrive. Diseases that can affect camels such as brucellosis or tuberculosis, camel pox or camel trypanosomiasis, I have no idea how to say that... Are no present. They're not present in Australian camel populations. And so these guys are effectively in paradise. They've got no predators. They've got no diseases culling them. And they've got, you know, the perfect environment that they're adapted to. So that tends to be the story of animals that adapt... Well, that get released into Australia from...


Yeah, rabbits. They're the worst. We should do an episode on them. Anyway, dad, thanks so much for coming on. Appreciate it!

Any time! Same time next week.

Sounds good. See you guys.

See you.

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