While the Arab world has close ties with their hardy camels, Australia considers their 1.2 million population of wild camels to be nothing more than pests.
Camels are valued in the Arab world for their meat, milk, and leather, but in Australia, more than one million wild Dromedary camels are considered pests. They are also a source of greenhouse gas emissions since each releases one pound of methane into the atmosphere every year. (Read about giant plumes of gurgling methane that could fast track global warming.)
While this doesn’t compare with Australia’s coal pollution, last year Daily Mail reported that the government was considering a proposal to slaughter every single animal in order to “save the planet.” Unhappy with this plan, Helen Durrant with Camel Wool Products started making beautiful apparel of camel wool in order to prove that these animals are a valuable natural resource to be cherished, not culled.
“Camel wool has some amazing properties,” according to Helen Durrant, who is determined to demonstrate that the world’s largest population of Dromedary camels – about 1.2 million of them in the Australian outback – are not feral pests but a diverse resource. “It is light, soft, warm and luxurious,” she adds.
Baby camels have a particularly soft down that can be converted in a silky soft yarn.
“I love the feel of it in my hands and you will love to wear it,” she says. Occasionally Helen mixes camel wool with a fine merino blend or silk – both of which enhance the properties of her signature apparel including beanies, baby booties, and scarves.
In contrast with the baby’s soft down, older camels have two coats – an outer hairy coat and an inner downy coat – all of which can be used to make durable wool wall hangings, handwoven floor rugs, and tote bags.
Helen explained that her product range is small and everything she makes sells very quickly. “But as everything is hand made I cannot make [them] any faster than my hands will move,” she says.
Given that she has such a small operation, it is unlikely that Helen will have an enormous impact on the Australian government’s decision to cull the country’s burgeoning camel population, which was first brought to the country in the early 1800s. They were used to transport materials used to build a network of roads and railway tracks.
The Central Australian Camel Industry Association Inc (CACIA) was established as an alternative to government camel culling programs, and aims to “promote the sustainable development of the camel industry through the use, knowledge and well-being of camels in Australia.” In part, camels are traded with other countries including Oman and Qatar, and camel meat is processed and sold.
They also sell oil, leather and wool.
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