An Australian woman was killed by her pet camel after the animal tried to mate with her. Usually linked to the Middle East, dromedary camels are also prolific in Australia where a population of 1.2 million wild ones are considered as costly pests.
The Aussie government encourages hunters to knock off feral herds. But have tables turned – are camels now killers?
The 340-pound camel was given to the woman as a pet, an unusual 60th birthday gift from her husband and daughter, according to local police. Her husband discovered her lifeless body at the family’s ranch near Mitchell, 350 miles west of Brisbane. The camel was found wandering nearby and police suspect he had knocked the woman to the ground, then laid on top of her, exhibiting classic mating behavior. The camel was less than a year old.
“I’d say it’d probably been playing, or it may be even a sexual sort of thing,” Detective Senior Constable Craig Gregory told The Daily Mail, “She had a love of exotic pets.”
“What happened is characteristic of a bull in season,” said camel expert Paddy McHugh, adding, “That’s how they kill their opposition – they pull their legs out from underneath and then sit on them”, he added, “but I can count on one hand the number of people that have been killed by camels in Australia in the past 100 years.”
The camel had previously attacked other farm animals and had tried several times to suffocate the family’s pet goat.
Camels have long been revered for their indefatigable endurance as working animals in challenging climates. Use of the animals for meat has been on the upswing, and the “ships of the desert” have been enjoying a renaissance as a healthy alternative to traditional dairy animals.
They rank alongside monkeys, koalas, and sheep for their “awww look how cute” characteristics. But recent links between the species and MERS disease, coupled with this Australian tragedy, may prompt some revisionist thinking.