Introduced Animals in Australia Australian Feral Animals



Many animals were brought to Australia by humans. Mos, such as the sheep and cattle, have been vital to the Australian economy. Others have caused serious problems to native plants and animals. These introduced animals, referred to as feral animals' have multiplied rapidly because there are no native predators or diseases to control them. List below are some of the feral animals of Australia.

Camels - History of the Feral Camel in Australia Story of the Australian Camel



Wild Camels roaming Australian Outback

Why Camels were Brought to Australia 

In the early 1800s no white man had ventured into the vast interior of the Australian continent. Many explorers had tried but almost all of their attempts had ended in failure. One of the main reasons for their failure was the lack of a suitable pack animal capable of handling the dry, rough often sandy terrain of the Australian Outback. In 1822 a Danish-French geographer named Malthe Conrad Bruun first suggest that the camel may be the solution to this problem.

The first camel was purchased from the Spanish on the Canary Islands and arrived in Australia in 1840 and was part of an expedition into the interior lead by John Horrocks. Unfortunately this animal was instrumental in Hancocks's accidental death and was shot.

In 1860, 24 camels and 3 camel-drivers (cameleers) were imported from India to join the Burke and Wills expedition into the interior of Australia. The expedition was a disaster, with both Burke and Wills losing their lives, but the camels proved their usefulness. Some camels in this expiation escaped and may have formed the first contingent of the feral camel population of Australia.

Australian Outback Camel Caravan

Australian Outback Camel Cart

Australain Outback Camel Races

Having proven their usefulness huge numbers of camel were imported into Australia. In the period 1870 to 1900 alone, more than 15,000 camels and 3,000 cameleers arrived in Australia.

These animals and their drivers provided a vital service in the exploration of the interior of Australia, in the setting up of the first telegraph line through the desert from Adelaide to Darwin and in the construction of the railroad between Port Augusta and Alice Springs. This railroad is known today as the Ghan, in honour of the cameleers who lead the camel teams in its construction.


Why Australian Camels Became Feral 

With the advent of the motor vehicles and railroads these animals were no longer needed and by the 1930s most were set free. Discarded by their owners these animals had to fend for themselves in the wilderness. The non-native camel was ideally suited for the arid Australian deserts. It could handle the heat, had no predators and was also capable of eating almost all the vegetation found there. Its numbers rapidly increased.


Wild camels are only found in Australia. Some have actually been exported back to Arabia (the Middle East).
Camel racing is popular in Alice Springs.



Feral Camel Impacts on the Australian Environment 

In 1966 it was estimated that there were 20,000 wild camels. By 2008 this number was estimated to be 500,000. Their numbers have increased so much that they are now considered a serious threat to native habitat. An extensive culling was undertaken between 2008 and 2013. The present population is now estimated at about 350,000 animals Feral camels impact the Australian environment by:

  • • Consuming vegetation up to heights of 4 meters and striping these plants of their leaves. Many native animals are unable to reach the remaining leaves of these plants.
  • • Moving in huge herds of up to 1000 animals, severely depleting and stressing local vegetation and depriving other native animals of their food sources.
  • • Collectively they exhaust and pollute waterholes and can cause native animals to die of thirst. (Each camel can consume 200 litres of water in less than 3 minutes).
  • • Damaging pastoral properties by destroying windmills, fences, etc. and eating vegetation meant for livestock.
  • • Sometimes causing serious traffic hazards on roads, rail lines and even airplane runways.

Dingo Australian Wild Dog



Australian Dingo

What is a Dingo 

The dingo is an Australian wild dog. It is the largest carnivore in Australia. It is, however, not a native Australian animal. It appears to have been brought to Australia by humans. While it is commonly referred to as a wild dog, it is actually a subspecies of the Grey-wolf.


How the Dingo Got to Australia 

How the Dingo arrived in Australia is not certain. Fossil and other evidence indicates that it first arrived in Australia between 4,600 and 5,400 years ago. The most widely accepted theory is that their introduction may have been by chance, brought to Australia by ancient seafarers. It is also suggested that, given the lack of much genetic variation amongst the dingo population today, the entire population may have sprung up from a single pregnant animal brought on an ancient vessel. Its close resemblance to the Asian wolf and native dogs found in many parts of Asia suggest that its origin was in Asia, possibly Thailand.


Description of the Dingo 

While it has been domesticated from time to time by the Australian aborigines the dingo is essentially a wild dog. It is about 60cm tall and weighing up to 25kg. It has a stronger skull with bigger teeth than domesticated dogs. The colour of its fur is determined by its environment. Desert dingos have a red/yellow coat. Those in forests have dark fur with tan markings. Those living in the alpine regions are almost white. The dingo usually lives by itself or in a small family group. It eats almost anything it can find from Kangaroos and Wallabies to rats, mice, frogs, lizards and even fruit. The dingo does not bark, it yelps and howls like a wolf, especially at night, to communicate with other dingoes and scare off intruders. The dingo inhabits all parts of Australia, provided there is a supply of drinking water. Dingoes don't like water. Most dingoes will only wade water but will not swim.

The dingo by nature is an opportunistic hunter, it will prey on any animal, preferably warm-blooded, that it can successfully bring down. This leads it into conflict with humans.


The Dingo's Impact on the Environment & Humans 

The dingo is not a serious threat to the Australian habitat. Its unpopularity steams primarily for the following reasons:

  • • Dingos attack pastoral animals such as sheep and young cattle. This makes them unpopular with farmers and pastoralist. (Contrary to popular folklore, domestic animals such as sheep account for only 1-7% of a dingoes diet).
  • • In areas populated by humans, dingos have been known to eat domestic pets such as cats and dogs.
  • • Collectively they exhaust and pollute waterholes and can cause native animals to die of thirst. (Each camel can consume 200 litres of water in less than 3 minutes).
  • • On rare occasion they have been reported to have attacked young children; seeing them too as a food source.
  • • They have attacked people who have come too close to them, feed them are foolishly tried to pet them.
  • • Since they will eat any animal indiscriminately it have also been blamed for the reduction in the population of some endangered animals such as the nailtail wallabies, koalas and tree kangaroos.


Dingos Aren't that Bad 

To be fair to the dingo, some scientists have suggested that it fills an important ecological niche. Being the only large carnivore left on mainland Australia it helps in keep the native kangaroo and wallaby populations in balance. This function was once fulfilled by the thylacine (Tasmanian tiger) and Tasmanian devil, both of which became extinct on the mainland. Ironically their extinction may have been due to competition from the dingo. More importantly, it also eats other introduced feral animals such as the destructive rabbit,goat and wild pig.


The Dingo - An Endangered Species 

Because of interbreeding with domestic dogs there is a high probability that the "pure" dingo breed may become extinct as a result of genetic pollution.



dingo fence

The longest fence in the world is a dingo fence that stretches from Darling Downs in Queensland to Nundroo in South Australia; a distance of 5,614 kilometres (3,488 mi). It is also one of the longest man-made structures in the world. It was built between 1880 and 1885 to protect pastoral animals such and sheep and cattle from dingo attacks. The fence is believed to have been successful because there are hardly any dingos to the south of this fence where most of most productive grazing land is.

Rabbits Major Pest



Wild Rabbits in Australia
Rabbit damage
Damage caused by rabbits around
Phillip Island, Victoria.
rabbit after
Dramatic revival of the same environment
once rabbits were eradicated.

Rabbits were introduced in to Australia by Thomas Austin of Barwon Park, Winchelsea inVictoria. In 1859 Austin imported 24 rabbits from England and released them on his property for sport hunting. Today there are over 200 million of them (See what they mean when they say "breed like rabbits").



Cane Toad Brought in for Pest Control Now a Major Pest Itself



Cane Toad
MAp of Cane Toad Invasion

The Cane Toad was brought to Australia in 1935 to protect the sugar cane fields of Queensland from the cane beetle But guess what? It didn't work!

Scientists warned the farmers not to bring the cane toad to Australia but the farmers didn't listen and brought them in anyway.

The cane toad has no natural enemies in Australia and lives up to 20 years. A female cane toad can lay up to 40,000 eggs (while the native frogs lay only about 1,000). Most native tadpoles can't live in the same water as the poisonous Cane Toad tadpoles.

The cane toad is highly poisonous. It carries toxin in two large bulging glands on its shoulders (see them in the picture). Native animals that normally feed on native frogs try t o eat the cane toad and die. Even grasping the toad in their mouths is enough to kill.

Because they are multiplying so rapidly and because they will eat almost anything that will fit in their mouths they are devastating the native ground dwelling micro-fauna (small ground creatures).

Water Buffalo They Destroy the Wetlands



Water Buffalo

About 80 water buffalo were brought to Australia from Indonesia between 1825 and 1843 to provide remote settlements in the Northern territory with meat. When these settlements were abandoned in the 1850s the buffalo were set free and soon spread rapidly throughout the area. In the 1980s it was estimated that there were more than 350,000 feral buffaloes in the Northern territory alone.

They have been become a major environmental disaster in the wetlands of the north. Their wallowing habit severely damages native flora .

A major culling operation was undertaken some time ago and the population of buffalo is now manageable and numbering about 80,000.