From Colonial Desert Ship to Plague
IA caravan of camels moves slowly but gracefully at a steady pace through the scorching desert heat. An uninterrupted sun above him, sand dunes behind him as far as the eye can see. When you think of camels, you usually have images like these of the Sahara in your head.
What most people don’t know: The largest wild camel population in the world is not in Africa or the United Arab Emirates, but in Australia. And there are historical reasons for this, because when the unexplored continent was settled by Europeans, permanent and heat-resistant burdock animals were in demand. On the other hand, today they serve more as a leisure activity.
“We’ve always had camels here,” says Shelley Lorenson. She is president of the Boulia Camel Race, a camel race in the middle of the outback. The population of Boulia in Queensland is only around 300-400, but around 3,500 people are busy in July during the racing season. Many people come in caravans or sleep in tents to watch the camels race across the red desert sands.
The three-day extravaganza also includes a lawn mower race, music and fireworks. But the camels are the main attraction, Lorensen says. Their nature makes races unpredictable: riders cannot control or control animals: “You can train them, but a camel that wins all the races one day may sit on the ground the next.” could.”
Camels have been brought from India, Afghanistan and the Arabian Peninsula since the 1840s. During colonization, they helped new people explore the hinterland, transporting goods and people. Several major projects such as the Trans-Australian Railway and the Overland Telegraph Line were also implemented with the help of camels. Additionally, the hinterland settlements relied on “desert ships” as food was brought by camel to even the most remote areas.
Duncan Pickering states that since the founding of the town in the 1880s there have been camels in Silverton, on the border of New South Wales and South Australia. With his partner Petah Devine, he offers camel excursions there. The couple dreamed of a self-sufficient life on a farm in the middle of the backcountry. The camels turned out to be a coincidence: “The family who offered us tours stopped by and gave us our first two animals in 2017,” Pickering told the German Press Agency.
13 camels now live in the field. Pickering’s charm in working with desert animals is his personality: “They are all very personal, but at the same time very close.” But training new animals is a challenge: “First you have to know their temperament and treat each other warmly.”
about 1.2 million animals
And yet: in Australia, the impressive burdock beasts have been considered a nuisance for some time. They were abandoned in the backcountry after cars and other means of transportation arrived in the early 1900s that no longer needed transportation. They have spread through the wild – a 2010 Environment Ministry report put their number at around one million. A report from an ABC station estimated 1.2 million animals in 2020 – but no one knows for sure.
Especially during dry and hot periods, humpbacked wild animals often roam the colonies in search of water. They pull down the fence and try to introduce condensation into the air conditioning system. The damage is often extensive – because of this, and to keep their breeding under control, Australia has been culling camels regularly and in large numbers. Local governments and landlords hire snipers for this and sometimes helicopters are used. Australia’s Wild Camel Action Plan insists that killing should be as quick and painless as possible.
save and use camels
It is also estimated that 3,600 to 4,000 camels are killed each year to make animal feed from their meat. Another 400 animals are used for live export and 1000 for human consumption.
“Our main concern is saving the camels as well as using them for their products,” says Paul Martin, who founded the Summer Land Camels company in 2015. His 800-acre farm in Harrisville, Queensland, is home to 400 to 500 of the camels captured in the backcountry then named by Martin and his team. In addition to a sunrise ride and a cocktail party with camels, visitors can try camel milk cheese and ice cream or “camelcino” at the Farm Café. The aroma is slightly sweet and camel milk contains a lot of vitamin C and iron.
Paul Martin also talks about the many health benefits: “Camel milk does not freeze in the stomach and therefore does not cause an inflammatory reaction like other types of milk.” For this reason, people with lactose intolerance can also drink milk.
He says the demand for camel products is gradually increasing. In addition to dairy products, Summer Land also sells hand cream, body lotion and the world’s first camel vodka. In some Asian countries, you can already buy products online. “We are currently working on the EU strategy,” says Martin. Perhaps Australian camel products will soon also be available in Europe.