The impact of feral camels (Camelus dromedarius) on remote waterholes in central Australia
Box, J.B., McBurnie, G., Strehlow, K., Guest, T., Campbell, M., Bubb, A., McConnell, K., Willy, S., Uluru, R., Kulitja, R., Bell, B., Burke, S., James, R., Kunoth, R. and Stockman, B. (2016) The impact of feral camels (Camelus dromedarius) on remote waterholes in central Australia. The Rangeland Journal, 38 (2). pp. 191-200.
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The Katiti and Petermann Aboriginal Land Trusts (KPALT) in central Australia contain significant biological and cultural assets, including the World Heritage-listed Uluu-Kata Tjua National Park. Until relatively recently, waterbodies in this remote region were not well studied, even though most have deep cultural and ecological significance to local Aboriginal people. The region also contains some of the highest densities of feral dromedary camels (Camelus dromedarius) in the nation, and was a focus area for the recently completed Australian Feral Camel Management Project. Within the project, the specific impacts of feral camels on waterholes were assessed throughout the KPALT. We found that aquatic macroinvertebrate biodiversity was significantly lower at camel-accessible sites, and fewer aquatic taxa considered 'sensitive' to habitat degradation were found at sites when or after camels were present. Water quality at camel-accessible sites was also significantly poorer (e.g. more turbid) than at sites inaccessible to camels. These results, in combination with emerging research and anecdotal evidence, suggest that large feral herbivores, such as feral camels and feral horses, are the main immediate threat to many waterbodies in central Australia. Management of large feral herbivores will be a key component in efforts to maintain and improve the health of waterbodies in central Australia, especially those not afforded protection within the national park system.
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