Camel threat

Submitted: Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 03:44
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We know that the feds funded a $ 19 m program to (in part) reduce the size of Australia's camel herd. It's likely that the recent dry years have also been successful at reducing the population. But there are still heaps of camels in the true outback.

While roaming the interior, camels are still encountered relatively often, even though we drive on tiny ribbons varying from 2 to 20 metres wide - no more than a spider web thread over outback Australia. One imagines there must be big numbers still out there if we see so many from such little exposure to the surface area of the interior. Camelscan gives some idea of who sees what.

But the recent post about wild dogs and threats to campers/ tourers got me thinking if people have been attacked or threatened by camels. I know I have, twice, but for the sake of the thread I'll hold my comments till later.

We know that camel expeditions do have threat issues from wild camels, but they are different circumstance to the 4WD traveller.

So what's been your experience ?

Cheers

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Reply By: Kanga1 - Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 07:59

Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 07:59
Hi Rick, I remember reading a CSIRO (from memory) report on the feral Camels living in central Australia about 20 years ago. The long and the short of it was at that time the Camels were responsible for more localised native animal extinctions than Cats and Foxes put together, this was almost completely due to what they do in water holes, at the time it really surprised me. I recall one trip to Alice from Perth on the GCR we saw one Kangaroo and Camels numbered 4 different herds of between 5-10 animals to one group with over 20 in it.
We have never felt threatened by these animals, but I can imagine at breeding time the behaviour of the males could be unpredictable. It's good to hear about some kind population control effort. Cheers, Kanga.
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Reply By: turbo 1 - Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 08:24

Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 08:24
Rick , Tell us about your two run ins with camels, what prompted the attack and what happened etc.
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Reply By: Grumblebum and the Dragon - Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 11:14

Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 11:14
I don't think the Febs budget of 19M will make much impression - too much soaked up by the office bound shiny bums rather than shooting in the field.

You are very unlikely to be harassed by camels, however if they get too close and you don't feel comfortable - just hop in the car and do a drive past with lots of noise and they will be off.

John
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Follow Up By: Member - David M (SA) - Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 11:29

Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 11:29
Just don't get between a Bull and his Harem.
Dave.
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Reply By: Ozrover - Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 12:18

Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 12:18
Quite a lot of Camels that I encountered "fell over" after seeing me, the rest were either too fast or I didn't have the "Arab" with me...

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Follow Up By: Member - Keith C (NSW) - Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 12:38

Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 12:38
G/day Jeff, I know what you mean, it's a strange thing,I have the same affect on goats and pigs,they just "fall over"and often without eye contact. Hope the new digs are working out, very different to the pub eh., Keith
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Follow Up By: Ozrover - Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 17:43

Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 17:43
Hi Keith,

Moving on from here soon, missed the pub so much that we went & bought one...

Details to follow. ;)

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Follow Up By: equinox - Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 20:47

Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 20:47
What annoys me is the amount of dead camels shot when on a track and left there so you have to drive around the carcass.

Don't mind culling here and there however the least the shooter can do is take it off the track - Not saying anyone here doesn't do that
Looking for adventure.
In whatever comes our way.

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Follow Up By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 21:25

Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 21:25
equinox, had the misfortune to (almost) strike a couple of those on the Canning last year. Middle of the track on a blind corner leading up to a sand dune.

Our comment was whoever shot them wasn't professional.

Had a stink that would outlast religion .....

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Follow Up By: Ozrover - Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 22:01

Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 22:01
Any animals shot & left on a track were probably shot by "tourist" for a better word shooters.

Any aerial or vehicle based shooters culling, will always drive them off the track before taking the shot, (I know that I do).

There were a couple of donkeys shot just south of the Maryvale gate on the Old Ghan track last year, yes shot by passing "tourists" you would be surprised at how many people actually carry firearms when they travel, & take an "opportunistic" shot occasionally.

Not right but it does happen.
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Reply By: Mick O - Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 16:32

Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 16:32
Out around Mt Worsnop on the Hunt Oil Road, our camp was set upon by an angry male after his cows showed a bit too much interest in a big fella we had at our camp. My bronze coloured Patrol wagon with a roof top tent that opened to the rear. He came up bellowing and posturing tom within 15 metres. I was getting quite concerned as I only had a shovel for protection. Slipping quietly over to the tent, I pushed the tent over and collapsed it so that it was flat. That confused him and diffused the threat.

Here are millions out there and they have caused regional extinction of flora and fauna. You only ever find macropods in and around range areas now, areas the camels will only go as a last resort. Cull them all in my opinion.

Cheers Mick



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trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 17:38

Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 17:38
Better still catch em and ship em back to the arabs......aparantly the australina wild camels are better breeding stock then the remeining mostly domesticated geene pool in the arab countries.

I believe there is a pretty good market for camel meat too.

Either way we should be exporting the problem.

cheers
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Follow Up By: Mick O - Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 20:32

Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 20:32
The logistics just don't stack up in the remote areas though. To far, too hard and markets are a long way away. They mainly transport out of the NT and top end of SA close to existing infrastructure.

Cheers Mick
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 20:47

Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 20:47
Well, no wonder he was interested, Mick! - just get a look at the size of that hump on that Nissan!! [:-)
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Follow Up By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 21:32

Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 21:32
Mick - we struck one very stubborn male on the way out ot Desert Queen Baths a few years back. Smack in the middle of the road and he wasn't moving .... couldn't drive around him as he was in the middle of a small cutting with very big rocks off the road.

Spat, grunted and stomped, and wasn't giving way - suspected he saw our vehicles as a threat .... after about 20 minutes of stand off and honking horns (and a few false charges with the 4'by) - he eventually wandered off.
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 23:49

Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 23:49
Hi The Bantam, following on from your reply:

The export market for camel meat is under supplied. SAMEX Australia owns two abattoirs killing camels; one in Peterborough South Australia and the other in Caboolture Queensland.

For continuity of supply and quality they prefer camels to be farmed rather than harvested and transported from Northern South Australia and the Northern Territory as they started out with. Ideally camels for meat should be between three and ten years old, over 400 kilogrammes live weight, and under 600 kilogrammes to be processed. Farmed camels are also quieter and easier to handle which also results in less stress and improved meat quality.

An industry which started with promise of reducing feral camels numbers did not keep pace with overall breeding, and spawned a new farming industry instead of continuing to rid the outback of the environmentally damaging camels.Peterborough Abattoir remains the largest killing principally feral camels.

Extracts from ECOS Magazine Camel Facts
"During the millennium drought, desperate for water, feral camels mobbed together: destroying water pipeline infrastructure and damaging fencelines and Aboriginal settlements. Camels currently cause around $10 million of damage per year – if left unchecked, their impact is expected to grow as climate change brings drier and hotter periods to the rangelands."

“Killing camels for export began in Alice Springs in the 1980s. But, according to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), the industry has struggled with the high costs of working in remote environments and the need to transport live camels over long distance to abattoirs. This limits processing infrastructure and causes irregularity in camel supply and fragmented, inadequate marketing of camel meat.”


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Follow Up By: Flighty ( WA ) - Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014 at 11:37

Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014 at 11:37
That explains something to me, was part of a two vehicle trip from Uluru to Laverton on the GCR, when I saw an "oversize" vehicle heading toward me in the distance.
Lights flashing the whole bit, so called my companion behind to let him know of this "oncoming oversize" and slow down for him to pass safely.
As this vehicle got closer with a huge trail of dust following him it became quite clear that the so thought oversize load was actually 2 trailer loads of camels.
Funniest sight I have ever seen with heads and necks hanging out on all sorts of angles, caused quite a chuckle, but totally understood the need for the flashing lights.
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Reply By: Ron N - Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 18:09

Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014 at 18:09
All camels have to be treated with due care, due to their ability to cause serious bodily damage if they become enraged or even worse - when aroused.
My Dad owned a camel team in the 1930's. He used them to pull a percussion boring rig around the Murchison and as far South as Kalannie.

He spoke fondly and at length of his camels, but he still treated them with great respect.
Camels spit, they can bite savagely, and unlike cows and horses, they can kick in ANY direction, with ANY leg - making them very dangerous beasts indeed.

One of the camels Dad owned (a black camel) was a killer. He'd killed his Afghan owner in Meekatharra.
The Afghan had been very cruel to the camel and had regularly beaten the camel with a lump of wood.
The camel just bided his time and when the Afghans back was turned, the camel bit the top right off his head.

No-one would touch the camel after the Afghan was killed by him, but Dad, being an "animal" man, took him on.
He treated him with care and respect and he said he was the best camel he ever had, he was the hardest worker of the bunch.
He never used abusive treatment or abusive handling on any animal he ever owned.

95% of the time, camels are no threat to humans and wild camels are generally timid. They're slow thinkers, like cattle, and if comfortably settled, they will move only when it suits them.

The most dangerous angle of camels is that the male comes into heat and becomes quite a risk to humans.
They become irrational in their behaviour, they will charge anything that they think is mountable, or charge anything they think is a threat to their conquest/s.
They are big, heavy, animals and they can cause substantial damage to life and limb when in this state.

Below is a story that is partly chuckle and partly very serious. It relates to a wild bull camel on heat going berserk.
Fortunately, no-one was hurt in the events related, but it could easily have been a different story.

A camel is having sex with my car!

Some friends were capturing camels live about 30 yrs ago, just out of Laverton.
They were wrestling one reluctant camel onto a truck when one of the blokes yelled "look out" to another bloke, who had his back to the camel.

The second bloke spun around to see the camel with its head raised and its mouth wide open, poised directly over his head!
He ducked out of the way faster than a bloke trying to avoid a snake strike!

Luckily, it appeared the camel was only threatening him, not actually into the process of biting him, but it could easily have turned very nasty, very quickly.
They increased their respect for, and their distance from, camels mouths, after that episode, and they never turned their back on a camel again, that was within striking distance!

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014 at 10:48

Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014 at 10:48
Ron, that link should be included in the Friday funnies - couldn't stop laughing ....
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014 at 11:50

Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014 at 11:50
Scott - Yes, Liz Martin is obviously a real character, she writes well, tells it bluntly - and the story of the macho copper and the chewed-up cop car, is a classic.
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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014 at 08:53

Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014 at 08:53
Hi Rick

Like all things, it will come down to just luck. I have only ever had one real scare and it could have been a different story if the camel was agro.

A few years ago out in the Great Victoria Desert, I left the car and set off on foot, armed only with a camera and GPS to walk less than 200 metres to located an old Aboriginal soak.

Looking at the GPS while walking, I walked to the top of a very slight sand dune and there right in front of me, less than 20 metres away was one very large camel. I do not know who got the biggest shock, but I just froze, and thought to myself that if it charges me, I would sure to be killed, as there were no nearby trees to head for, only just very low bushes that would offer no protection at all.

To my luck, the camel looked at me, then turned around and just slowly walked away. If there was a group of camels, it may have been very different, but it made me very aware that the situation could have been very different.


Cheers


Stephen




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Follow Up By: Mick O - Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014 at 22:29

Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014 at 22:29
Reminds me of an incident when I was out at McPhersons Pillar back in 2006 Stephen. From my journal of the day;

"There we were at 8:00 p.m. sitting quietly by the fire when there was a guttural groan/roar from behind us. We looked at each other as we sat in the chairs when an almighty roar many times louder than the first, bought us both out of our chairs and looking for implements of defence! It was a camel sounding off nearby and it frightened the bloody bleep out of us both. I took the torch and walked up the track to disturb two large dromedaries at the top of the rise. Being down wind of them, they got just as bigger shock to see me as we got in hearing them and plunged off the track, crashing through the surrounding brush and shrubs. Beasties vanquished, we would be able to sleep in peace".

Gibson Desert - Mulgan Rockhole & McPherson's Pillar


Cheers Mick
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
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Reply By: Rick (S.A.) - Thursday, Dec 11, 2014 at 01:52

Thursday, Dec 11, 2014 at 01:52
First threat
Camped with a group on the Gary Highway, about midpoint, in a mulga flat. I'm a light sleeper. Woke in the early hours and could not identify a strange sound. Took a while to nut it out, but it was a single camel wandering through the camp. At dawn, when the others arose, no-one had heard anything. Knowing that some camels have nasty biting tendencies, and being aware of the potential for a bull camel in season to be dangerous, I did feel threatened but chose to remain still and not alert any human or camel; the marauder disappeared in due course and all I later saw were tracks.

Second threat
Camped on the Gunbarrel, east of Mt Beadell in a relatively open patch of mulga. Got a fire going, set up camp & Mr young bull camel came over to inspect. He was on his pat malone. He was not at all intimidated by our presence. My mate and I threw stuff at him, ran like screaming,waving, big ugly dervishes at him, but he remained too close for comfort for about 5 minutes, then sauntered away. We saw and heard no other camels in that camp.

Were we at risk?
IMHO, yes. There are far too many recorded instances and personal anecdotes from cameleer mates for me too ignore these behaviours. It doesn't stop me from travelling through the interior, but I do try to minimise risks.

Cheers
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