Thirsty camels learn to turn on taps
Wednesday, 1 April 2009 4:46 PM
Australian Associated Press
Thirsty Northern Territory camels have acquired the knack of turning on taps.
The dry desert heat can make anyone thirsty, but the marauding pests – who some estimate now roam the outback in their millions, are causing havoc in their pursuit of a drink.
“If there are any taps adjacent to houses they’re quite capable of either turning the taps on or knocking the taps off so they get water,” said Wayne Wright from Central Australia’s MacDonnell Shire Council.
“Because of the fairly dry conditions that have occurred over the past year or two there’ve been more and more feral camels moving into communities.
“They take the opportunity to find water whatever way they can.”
While the animals can be applauded for their ingenuity and impressive motor skills, they are posing a real threat.
Work has now begun to protect the land from the unwanted trespassers, who show little respect for sacred Aboriginal sites, the livelihoods of cattle owners and the unique ecosystem of the nation’s red centre.
The MacDonnell Shire Council is seeking $4.5 million from the federal government to built camel-proof boundaries in the form of cattle grids around 14 communities.
Donkeys and horses would also be kept out if the application is approved next month.
“Unless we can limit the access to those areas, we are going to be wasting our money,” Mr Wright told the Northern Territory News.
“They destroy anything that’s been planted in the community.”
In the Northern Territory alone it is estimated there are about 300,000 camels, with more than a million plodding the arid sands of Australia nationwide.
Up to eighty per cent of maintenance costs are set aside by farmers for camel collateral, with producers spending up to $60,000 a year to fix fences, tanks, bores and buildings.
“The issue of wild camels has had more surveys, discussions and meetings without achieving a single positive outcome,” outgoing president Roy Chisholm told the NT Cattlemen’s Association conference in Alice Springs last week.
“While we take our time trying to make a decision on how to deal with the problem, the camels are happily breeding themselves into a huge uncontrolled herd.”
Meanwhile, average townfolk just want the willowy water carriers to stop eating their lawns and shrubs – and to find their own drink.
The story sounds a bit too outlandish to be a true story on the 1st of April to me, but then again Wayne Wright does exist according to the minutes of MacDonnell council’s meeting from August 29 last year.
That said, I can’t find any reference to MacDonnell council’s request for a $4.5 million camel damage prevention grant online, nor can I find any reference to Roy Chisholm’s statement that “the issue of wild camels has had more surveys, discussions and meetings without achieving a single positive outcome,” published prior to about today, despite the fact that he reportedly said it last week.
AAP and a number of other outlets have picked up this story this afternoon. The Northern Territory News ran the story this morning, but there was one other news outlet to have the story before them.
CBS 42, a TV station in Austin, Texas, published the story on their website at 9:05pm on March 30, which was 1:05pm yesterday (March 31) Canberra time. CBS 42 sourced the story from the World Entertainment News Network where, sadly, the trail goes cold, not that I can claim to be surprised as the World Entertainment News Network seem to be obsessed with celebrity photos and stories, and not with camels and other four-legged animals. With the trail apparently ending at the World Entertainment Network, I can only assume that they may have made the story up in a hope to get a bit of publicity for themselves…why else would a story about Northern Territory camels first surface in Texas?
What I assume happened though is that the World Entertainment News Network overestimated the appeal of the story within the United States, and so only got a tiny bit of publicity. Then the Northern Territory News noticed it and saw a use for it as an April Fools’ Day joke, and AAP later saw the NT News story, thought it was credible and distributed it to most of the nation’s press.
Unfortunately I can’t find the story on the AAP newswire, although I can see that it was a prominent story in today’s Nothern Territory News, according to AAP’s summary of ABC Radio’s summary of the major stories in today’s newspapers.
I think I’ll have to call the MacDonnell Shire Council in the morning to see if they can shed any more light on this story. As much as I’m sure it’s a hoax, it will be interesting to see how much MacDonnell Shire Council knew about the story before it hit the press, if they had any knowledge of it at all.
Update April 2nd, 3:37pm: It’s a true story according to MacDonnell Shire Council, however there is one minor correction to the story. The camels are not turning the taps on, merely knocking them off. End Update
April 1st, 2009 at 07:23pm