AUSTRALIANS are famous for making a living off the back of a
sheep. Now, some bush businessmen are trying to make money off the
There are camel safaris for tourists, wild and trained camels
for export, and even camel steaks for those who want to throw
something different on the barbie. One businessman has even
concocted a yogurt based on camel's milk, which does not require
Although the dollar amount of camel exports might fit through
the eye of a needle compared with exports of beef and sheep, there
is lots of potential. "There's more and more interest, I'll give
you that," says Rick Anderson, who sells camel meat and is breeding
the beasts as well.
In fact, it could be said there has been a virtual explosion in
the business. According to the federal Department of Primary
Industries in Canberra, 200 camels were exported between 1981 and
1991. However, this includes 106 camels recently shipped to New
York. "The exporters are getting more professional," says Lynette
Liddle, a department official.
There are plenty of beasts to choose from. Although no one has
done a recent camel census, the Northern Territory Department of
Primary Industries estimated in 1986 that there were 31,570 camels
shuffling around its part of the desert.
Although Australia has a lot of unusual native animals, the
camel is an import. In 1840 the British brought camels into the
country from the Canary Islands to see how they would fare.
Sir Thomas Elder started importing camels from Pakistan in
quantity in 1866. The dromedaries replaced horses, which could not
survive the long rides between watering holes. "The heyday of the
camel was in the 1920s," says Noel Fullerton, a camel expert who
also owns Virginia Camel Farm about 100 kilometers (62 miles) south
of Alice Springs. "You had your buggy camel, your pack camel, your
riding camel," he explains. The police even patrolled on camels
With the completion of the railroads in the 1930s, the thirst
for camels dried up. Wild herds flourished in the desert. Today,
there is renewed interest in Australian camels, which Mr. Fullerton
says are the healthiest in the world.
Two months ago, Ian Conway of Kings Creek Station stuffed 106
camels aboard a stretch DC-8 bound for New York City. Mr. Conway,
who says he is Australia's biggest camel exporter, is now planning
a trip to Dubai in February for a camel conference.
"They say Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are short good breeding
camels, since a lot were killed during the Gulf war," says Mr.
Conway, who hopes to sell some outback camels. …