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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 32(1)

Changes in Aboriginal perceptions of feral camels and of their impacts and management

P. Vaarzon-Morel

Consulting Anthropologist, Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre, PO Box 3561, Alice Springs, NT 0871, Australia. Email: pvmorel@bigpond.com
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This paper reports on a survey of Aboriginal perceptions of feral camels undertaken with Aboriginal people from 27 Aboriginal communities within the current feral camel range in central Australia. Research methods were qualitative, involving face-to-face semi-structured interviews. Views were sought on feral camel presence and impacts and people’s attitudes towards feral camel management. In just over two-thirds of the communities surveyed, interviewees reported seeing camels. Many interviewees in high camel density areas claimed that camels damage natural and cultural resources (such as water places and bush tucker) and affect their customary use of country. Roughly a third of interviewees also claimed that feral camels deprive native species of water. Damage to infrastructure and homelands was also reported, and concern was expressed over the danger that camels posed both on and off the roads. At the same time, camels are said to have positive benefits and most interviewees view them as a potential resource. Yet despite a widely held view among interviewees that camels need to be controlled, the majority were only prepared to consider limited management options. What is significant, however, is that Aboriginal views on feral camels today are not homogenous: there is a diversity of perspectives emerging in response to transformations being brought about by feral camels on Aboriginal land. The findings are discussed in the context of earlier studies on Aboriginal perceptions of feral animals in central Australia, which concluded that feral animals were thought not to be a significant land management problem but to ‘belong to country’. The implications of changing Aboriginal perceptions of feral camels are discussed for the development of a collaborative feral camel management strategy.

Keywords: cultural perspectives, harvesting, indigenous, wildlife.

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