Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is reported to be a hands-on kind of guy, but it seemed a bit much for American finance show host, Erin Burnett, to label him a "serial killer" because his government is funding a camel cull. Way too much has been said about this incident, so I won't repeat it here.
My wife does watch the lady's finance channel for stockmarket information and it worries me that a finance reporter referred to camels as one of "Australia's biggest exports". I'd bet a lot of money that camels get lost very early in the rounding up of the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for our export industries.
There is an urban myth that our camels are faster than Arabian ones and prized in Dubai for racing. We Australians do like to think of ourselves as faster and stronger than those from other countries, and we seem to extend this world view even to our feral animals. Unfortunately, in the case of camels, it turns out only one in a 1,000 is even suitable for racing in Australia, let alone taking on the pros in the Middle East. You see, our camels were brought here as beasts of burden, to carry large weights across the country, not to sprint around tracks. Nearly a century in the Outback hasn't conferred racing stripes on our ships of the desert. A report by RIRDC strongly downplays the racing potential of Australia's camels. Researcher George Wilson told me, compared with real racing camels, our feral camels are the equivalent of a draft horse to a thoroughbred. I reckon the ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, one of the world's best known racing fans (in thoroughbred, camel and Arabian endurance racing), would have quickly figured out the relative speed of camels from around the world a long time ago.
I suspect almost all the claims on camel industries will turn out to be vastly over-stated. Every report states the bleeding obvious - develop a market first. There is nothing stopping anyone from camel farming if they wish to do so, but feral camels should not be viewed as some newly-discovered vast "resource" - that sought of thinking almost always ends up in rivers of government money chasing a pipe dream. The "Caring For Our Country" $19 million for camel work is a welcome attempt to do a major control program. Congratulations to the Desert Knowledge CRC for this initiative.
Posted by Tony Peacock, founder of 'Feral Thoughts'