Education Murdoch Uni trials suggest that the gregarious nature of camels may help control their numbers

Murdoch Uni trials suggest that the gregarious nature of camels may help control their numbers

Murdoch University has employed an interesting technique in an effort to control the approximately one million strong population of feral dromedary camels in Australia.

The technique involves the use of a “Judas” camel, which is tracked using a telemetry-enabled collar, which works to betray the location of groups of other feral camels, which are a real threat to biodiversity, agriculture and biosecurity in the regions they inhabit.

The leader of the project, Associate Professor Peter Spencer from the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences, said that previous attempts to control feral camel numbers in remote areas were “expensive and logistically challenging”, and that “an understanding of the social structure of invasive species like camels is needed for management programs to be effective.”

The Judas technique works with camels because their social structure is flexible,  a single tracked camel can integrate itself into several different groups of camels. This makes it easier for low-density populations to be controlled more effectively.

Previously, it was thought that camels had a fairly rigid familial social structure, but DNA tests collected by the team suggested that unrelated camels often found each other and became integrated groups.

Associate Professor Spencer conceded that the technique was still relatively expensive and needed to be used in conjunction with other methods.

Notes to Murdoch University

  • The dromedary camel occupies 37 per cent of the Australian continent.
  • They were imported into Australia from Arabia, India and Afghanistan during the 19th century for transport and construction during the colonisation of the central and western parts of Australia.
  • Many were released into the wild after motorised transport replaced the camels’ role in the early 20th century.

Hear an audio of Associate Professor Peter Spencer explaining his camel control research.

The full details of Professor Spencer et al’s research were recently published in The Journal of Wildlife Management, entitled Genetic relationships within social groups influence the application of the Judas technique: A case study with wild dromedary camels.

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