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Up to 10,000 thirsty camels will be shot and killed during major Australian drought

Brief relief for Australia firefighters

Amidst the devastating wildfires spreading across Australia, up to 10,000 camels will be shot and killed following complaints that they are drinking too much water. The cull will begin Wednesday and last approximately five days. 

Aboriginal officials in the remote, sparsely-populated northwest region of the South Australia province said the wild animals are endangering locals who are struggling to get enough water during a massive drought. Officials now plan to shoot and kill the camels in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, they said in a statement Monday

Officials said "extremely large groups of camels and other feral animals… are putting pressure on the remote Aboriginal communities in the APY Lands." They said the animals are threats to the community, consuming their scarce water and food supplies and endangering travelers.

"With the current ongoing dry conditions the large camel congregations threatening the APY communities and infrastructure, camel control is needed," the statement said. 

APY Lands manager Richard King told CBS News that 5,000 to 10,000 camels are being targeted in the cull, with the goal of protecting communities and native plant life. 

"This number is only 1% of what is currently destroying the fragile Australian [fauna] and flora," he said on Tuesday. 

The Department for Environment and Water told CBS News that an estimated 10,000 camels are flocking to tanks, taps and any other available water sources in local communities. 

"This has resulted in significant damage to infrastructure, danger to families and communities, increased grazing pressure across the APY Lands and critical animal welfare issues as some camels die of thirst or trample each other to access water," a spokesperson said. "In some cases dead animals have contaminated important water sources and cultural sites."

Professional shooters will hunt the animals from helicopters provided by the state DEA, "in accordance with the highest standards of animal welfare." Some of the camels will be left where they are killed, but those that are accessible will be burnt or buried, according to The Australian.

How climate change has intensified the Australia wildfires

The 2010 National Feral Camel Management Plan estimated that over 1 million wild camels populate Australia, a number that was expected to double in 8 to 10 years if left unmanaged.

Camels are far from the only animals whose lives are at risk due to the drought and ongoing wildfires, which have destroyed entire towns and stranded thousands of people.

Countless photos and videos of thirsty animals — including koalas and kangaroos — approaching humans for water have gone viral on social media over the last few months. It is estimated that over one billion animals have perished since the wildfires began in September. 

Certain regions of Australia have faced unprecedented heat in recent weeks. In December, the country experienced its hottest day on record, with average nationwide temperatures hitting 105.6 degrees Farhenheit.

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