CAM004: Field immobilisation of camels

Feral camels (Camelus dromedarius) are widespread throughout central Australia. They pose serious environmental and agricultural threats including degradation of soil, waterholes and native plant communities; competition with native animals and domestic stock; damage to infrastructure; erosion of waterways; and spread of weeds.

Large vertebrate pests are usually managed by culling or commercial harvest. However, at times they can be difficult to locate because of the vast area that they inhabit or because of the inaccessibility of terrain.

Radio-collared ‘Judas’ animals can be used to enhance population control programs. The technique involves immobilising an individual, attaching a telemetry collar, and releasing the collared animal to rejoin its herd. The collared individuals are subsequently tracked via GPS and communications satellites, and periodically other members of the animal’s herd can be either mustered or shot.

The technique is particularly useful when the target population occurs in medium to low densities, or are widely dispersed in remote areas. This technique is effective for camels because they are principally social animals and females in particular are known to locate another group if they become isolated. It should be noted that camels are not naturally aggressive animals and prefer to flee from the helicopter and personnel. However, if it is necessary to handle or lasso them, it should be done with great care as they are large and heavy animals.

The immobilisation technique we describe involves using Schedule 8 and Schedule 4 drugs to immobilise the camels with the use of darts discharged from a tranquilliser rifle operated from a helicopter. It is a high risk technique and restrictions apply under State and Federal legislation relating to Scheduled substances, firearms, aviation and animal welfare.

This Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) meets the legislative requirements and maximises the safety of and the welfare of the staff and animals involved.

Secondary title Standard Operating Procedure
Author Wayne Boardman, Mark Lethbridge, Megan Harper and Andrew Woolnough
Year 2014
Pages 9
Control method Judas Technique
Region Australia - national
Documents CAM004: Field immobilisation of camels [520kb PDF]
Links PestSmart Camel page: