A North Queensland-based camel expert has criticised the culling of up to 10,000 feral camels in South Australia, saying it's a waste of a potentially valuable industry.
The aerial cull, which began last Wednesday, will see up to 10,000 camels killed in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in the remote north west of the state.
Townsville's Paddy McHugh said culls such as these are an expensive way of managing the booming camel populations in inland Australia and that taking a proactive approach would be better in the long run.
"In simple terms, it's beyond stupidity," he said.
"We're the laughing stock of the Middle East for what we're doing... they really value camels and we're just shooting them. "
According to SA's Department of Environment and Water, while APY Lands traditional owners have mustered camels for sale for many years, they have been unable to manage the vast number of camels congregating during the dry conditions.
"An estimated 10,000 camels are flocking to available water sources, including tanks, taps and any available water in communities," a department spokesperson said.
"This has resulted in significant damage to infrastructure, danger to families and communities, increased grazing pressure across the APY Lands and critical animal welfare issues as some camels die of thirst or trample each other to access water."
Mr McHugh has worked with camels for more than 40 years and as part of his career exports live camels to the Middle East for camel beauty contests and racing.
He said building a profitable camel meat industry would be a more sustainable way of controlling the camel population long term than conducting culls.
"We've got to be proactive, not reactive," he said.
"If there's a real future for camel exports in Australia, it's in meat."
Camel meat is highly valued in the Middle East and northern Africa and within Australia can find an increasing customer base through halal butcher shops. But camel meat remains a niche product within Australia.
Mr McHugh suggested that two new camel micro-abattoirs need to be built at Kalgoorlie and Alice Springs to help grow Australia's camel meat industry further.
"The tyranny of distance is a big thing so you have to build these systerms close to where the camel populations are," he said.
"It'll take more than a few years to build the industry up, but we need to start. Some people say there's no market there at the moment but it's as they say, if you build it, they will come."