Multi-million pound cull of world's only wild herd of camels begins in Australia's Outback


At first glance it looks like a scene from the Middle-East or somewhere in North Africa.
Vast herds of camels gallop through the barren desert in the blazing heat as they search for water and food.
But these remarkable scenes are actually from Australia, where more than a million wild camels make up the world's only feral herd.
Now the Australian Government has allocated Aus$19 million (£9.8 million) to cull around 650,000 of the creatures to deal with the growing problem of them damaging crops and raiding homes.
The Australian Government has allocated nearly £10 million to cull many of the country's estimated 1 million wild camels
The Australian Government has allocated nearly £10 million to cull many of the country's estimated 1 million wild camels
The camels are descended from the original animals which helped to build Australia in the mid 1800s
The camels are descended from the original animals which helped to build Australia in the mid 1800s
Frightened residents of the Outback have had camels tear part their bathrooms and rip up pipes in the search for water.
The feral camel population roams in herds across millions of square kilometres of desert country and they will be rounded up by helicopters and shot by crack marksmen.
Camels were first introduced to Australia from Afghanistan and India in the 1840s to help move heavy goods to remote parts of the country.
Although it was not until the 1860s that camels began to arrive in Australia in large numbers the very first animal arrived by boat in 1840, the only one of four to survive the trip from the Canary Islands.
By the early 20th century hundreds of camels had arrived in the country. They were tended by
A crack marksman takes aim as the cull begins
A crack marksman takes aim as the cull begins
Muslim herders who were known as 'Afghans.'
Camels helped found the Outback city of Alice Springs and there is an Australian myth that the city's first piano arrived in the 1890s strapped to the back of a camel.
It is estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 camels were imported between 1880 and 1907.
Between 1894 and 1897 alone 6,000 camels were shipped from India directly to Western Australia, mainly to serve the booming gold camps.
But as rail transport spread many of the  redundant animals were simply set free to roam the Outback.
Feral camels are found in the drier parts of Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
The population is capable of doubling in size every nine years.
Australian Prime Minster Kevin Rudd announced last week that the government is setting aside the money for the vast camel-culling operation to reduce the population.
The decision has divided environmental groups.
Some conservationists agree that the camels compete with native creatures for food and also cause damage in Aboriginal communities in their search for water, fracturing pipes and breaking air conditioning units.
They also severely impact upon native crops and upset the balance of the Outback's fragile eco-system .
Others say it is wrong to blast the animals with guns from helicopters because many would be wounded but not killed.
Even health campaigners have joined the row saying camels that are shot should not be left to rot on the ground - their meat should be used for meals because it is low in fat and has little cholesterol.
Australian handlers let their camels rest in the desert in this archive photo from the late 1800s
Australian handlers let their camels rest in the desert in this archive photo from the late 1800s
The planned cull even made the U.S news last week where CNBC anchor woman Erin Burnett launched a broadside against the Australian government, labelling it  a 'serial killer'.
And camel exporter Paddy McHugh, who runs camel catching operations throughout Australia, has argued that a cull will be ineffective.
'What happens in 15 years when the numbers come back again?