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My Humps, My Humps, My Feral Population Jumps
December 9, 2006 3:51 AM   Subscribe

From far away they came to toil under the scorching Outback sun, and their hardy dispositions and tireless labor helped to create the central Australian railway and telegraph systems. They are the Camels [NPR story w/ audio], and today they are free (well, okay, feral), and they are many (700,000 strong, at least.) While they're no cane toads, they're becoming a bit of a pest. What to do with all those dromedaries? Well, you can race 'em, or you can eat 'em, or maybe you can even try milking 'em. Just get 'em before they get you, mate.
posted by maryh (18 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
And best wishes to everone in Oz dealing with the wildfires. Stay safe, you guys.
posted by maryh at 4:05 AM on December 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


What you gonna do with all that junk? All that junk inside your tr...

Oops! Wrong animal.
posted by pracowity at 6:14 AM on December 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


YAY! Aussie camels! Thanks, maryh!
posted by batmonkey at 6:17 AM on December 9, 2006


That "eat 'em" link may give a misleading impression of how most Australians eat their camel.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:44 AM on December 9, 2006


Yet another non-native species.
posted by furtive at 7:02 AM on December 9, 2006


Every time I hear about Australia it just seems cooler and cooler.
posted by Science! at 7:11 AM on December 9, 2006


And humans are just as native to any given area as any other animal, no matter when we showed up. Now if some aliens picked us up and dropped us there that's another story.
posted by Science! at 7:15 AM on December 9, 2006


And humans are just as native to any given area as any other animal, no matter when we showed up.
Not when but how. Being picked up and dropped by boats (or planes) is hardly a natural migration.
posted by tnai at 7:39 AM on December 9, 2006


(talking specifically about Aus here)
posted by tnai at 7:40 AM on December 9, 2006


Ah, now we know why kangaroos have been on the rampage.
posted by Smart Dalek at 7:47 AM on December 9, 2006


Er, I'm pritty sure we were a native species.
posted by Richard Daly at 9:27 AM on December 9, 2006


tnai: are ignorant of the fact that humans have been in Australia for 60,000 years or so?

Because if you aren't, you might have considered making an intelligent post about how, in fact, the arrival of humans around then is associated with widespread extinctions of Australian (Sahulian) mega-marsupials. As it stands though, you sounds like a wanker.
posted by Rumple at 10:43 AM on December 9, 2006


There is also the less well known, and less successful, introduction of camels to British Columbia during the Gold Rush of the 1850s. (more)
posted by Rumple at 10:47 AM on December 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: As it stands though, you sounds like a wanker.
posted by I Am Not a Lobster at 1:01 PM on December 9, 2006


Would someone please, please, capture the audio of that program and put the camel vocalizations into sound files somewhere?

I really need a new "you have mail" beep at the office. Not to mention an "AdAwareFoundMoreCrap" sound upgrade.
posted by hank at 5:09 PM on December 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


Rumple, the weight of opinion is currently against the extinction of the megafauna by homo.
posted by wilful at 5:53 PM on December 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


Just sic' the cane toads on 'em!
posted by Sukiari at 6:24 PM on December 10, 2006


wilful -- I used "associated with" rather than "caused by" deliberately, hoping to avoid implying that humans were wholly responsible for the demise of Australia's giant faunas. The connection is difficult to determine for a number of reasons, not least among them being: 1. human arrival and the relevant extinctions took place around the limits of radiocarbon dating (40-60,000 years ago). 2. it is notoriously difficult to determine when a species went extinct (is this the bone of the last giant wombat? or just the most recent bone that has survived?). 3. there is no widespread agreement when Humans arrived in Australia, with some evidence suggesting 60,000 years ago and other evidence topping out about 41,000. The difference is crucial, as megafaunal extinctions (at least the last wave of them) are concentrated around 44,500 years ago. 4. Climatic changes, said to play a significant role in the megafaunal extinctions, can easily cause range alterations and local extirpations which muddy the palaeontological record.

So, for every paper such as this:

A review of the evidence for a human role in the extinction of Australian megafauna and an alternative interpretation Stephen Wroe, Judith Field, Quaternary Science Reviews (2006, my copy says in press)

which argues for a primarily climate-driven extinction regime, correctly noting some mid-Pleistocene extinctions that are surpassingly unlikely to be anthropogenic, there are others like this:

Fifty millennia of catastrophic extinctions after human contact
David A. Burney and Timothy F. Flannery TRENDS in Ecology and Evolution Vol.20 No.7 July 2005

Which argues that people are a contributing factor, primarily through anthropogenic environmental change tipping the balance against fragile and naive megafaunal populations.

Having recently reviewed the global evidence, it is abundantly clear to me that widespread extinctions are almost always associated with the first arrival of genus Homo in any new land, and while the relationship between these two processes is not always clear, some aspect of human arrival (landscape burning, disease, and, probably least relevant to Australia but most relevant in some contexts such as NZ & Madagascar, overkill by humans) plays a role. (Predation pressure probably played a role in the Americas as well, as Daniel Fisher's mastodon tusk demographics shows, but certainly not at Martin's "Blitzkrieg" overkill levels.)
posted by Rumple at 10:03 PM on December 10, 2006


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