Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Judas Camels Betray Feral Friends

A single camel can betray the whereabouts of its companions, leading to a useful method to control feral camel numbers in Australia’s outback. The technique relies on the social nature of dromedary camels, which number around one million in remote areas of arid central Australia and threaten biodiversity, agriculture and biosecurity in these regions.

“The technique involves putting telemetry collars onto animals and periodically tracking them to cull the cohort of companion animals that the individual has joined,” said A/Prof Peter Spencer of Murdoch University. “The technique is particularly effective when pest animals are found at medium to low densities or are widely dispersed in remote areas.”

In research published in The Journal of Wildlife Management, DNA-profiling data revealed that camel groups were not defined by relatedness, so a Judas camel could easily infiltrate their social structure. When 10 camels were collared and tracked over a 2-year period they were found with other animals on 96% of occasions.

While this is an effective method for controlling the animals where population densities are low, Spencer admitted that it was still expensive and he recommended it be used in conjunction with other control methods.