Evaluation of the impacts of feral camels

Glenn P Edwards, Benxiang Zeng, William K Saalfeld, P Vaarzon-Morel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Feral camels have significant negative impacts on the environment and the social/cultural values of Aboriginal people. These impacts include damage to vegetation through feeding behaviour and trampling; suppression of recruitment in some plant species; damage to wetlands through fouling, trampling, and sedimentation; competition with native animals for food, water and shelter; damage to sites such as waterholes, that have cultural significance to Aboriginal people; destruction of bushfood resources; reduction in Aboriginal people’s enjoyment of natural areas; creation of dangerous driving conditions; damage to people and vehicles due to collisions, and being a general nuisance in remote settlements. Negative economic impacts of feral camels mainly include direct control and management costs, impacts on livestock production through camels competing with stock for food and other resources and damage to production-related infrastructure. The annual net impact cost of feral camels was estimated to be –$10.67 million for those elements that could be evaluated according to market values. We established a positive density/damage relationship for camels and infrastructure on pastoral properties, which is likely to hold true for environmental variables and cultural/social variables as well. Therefore, irrespective of climate change, the magnitude of the negative impacts of feral camels will undoubtedly increase if the population is allowed to continue to increase. Furthermore, the likelihood that camels would be epidemiologically involved in the spread of exotic diseases like bluetongue and surra (were there to be outbreaks of these diseases in Australia) is also very likely to increase with population density. On the basis of our present understanding, we recommend that feral camels be managed to a long-term target density of 0.1–0.2 camels/km2 at property to regional scales (areas in the order of 10 000–100 000 km2) in order to mitigate broad-scale negative impacts on the environmental, social/cultural and production assets of the Australian rangelands.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-54
Number of pages12
JournalRangeland Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


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