Amidst the devastating wildfires spreading across Australia, up to 10,000 camels may 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.
According to The Australian, professional shooters will hunt the animals from helicopters provided by the state Department for Environment and Water. Some of the camels will be left where they are killed, but those that are accessible will be burnt or buried, the newspaper said.
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 Fahrenheit.