Monday, July 4, 2011

Save the planet by killing camels”: Australia’s solution to global warming? A false and stupid solution

Save the planet by killing camels”: Australia’s solution to global warming? A false and stupid solution
Recently, a media release, titled “The Australian authorities will kill feral camels to save the planet”, revealed the intention of the Australian government to fight global warming by killing camels. “It was suggested that the methane emission by camels in the bush is greater than that from cattle and that the feral camels in Australia are contributing significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions. So, the solution is simple: kill the camels and Australia will contribute to the global effort to save the planet. There are several scientific and empirical responses to further such a statement. The estimation of methane emission by camels is based on cattle data extrapolation, ignoring the fact that the metabolic efficiency of camel is higher than that of cattle and that camels are able to produce 20% more milk by eating 20% less food, they have different digestive system and are more efficient in the utilization of poor quality roughages. The rumen flora digesting the roughages is also different than cattle, and their energetic metabolism is closer to monogastric than that of true ruminants such as cattle and sheep. Therefore, the estimation of camel methane emission is quite debatable, as well as the estimated feral population.

It is true that camel overpopulation could generate environmental problems and that requires proper management, but to take such a decision by targeting camels and to consider them as a major contributor to methane emission among other herbivores in Australia is not reasonable. With less than 28 million heads at world level, the camel population represents less than 1% of the total herbivorous biomass in the world.  Elsewhere, camel population is living in extensive arid lands where the carbon and methane emission is among the lowest at the surface of the earth.

The International Society of Camelid Research and Development (ISOCARD) with more than 300 of its members from all over the world, and representing different fields of research, considers the decision to point out the feral camels as one of the main culprits in generating the greenhouse gases in the Australian bush as a scientific aberration. Instead the feral dromedary camels should be seen as an incomparable resource in arid environments. They can and should be exploited for food (meat and milk), skin and hides, tourism etc. We believe that the good-hearted people and innovating nation of Australia can come up with better and smarter solutions than eradicating camels in inhumane ways.

For ISOCARD: the executive committee

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