Basically a single individual does all the hard work finding other groups of camels that would normally be very difficult to locate
Murdoch University researchers are giving groups of feral camels the hump as they successfully track them with a basic technique.
Headed up by Associate Professor Peter Spencer from the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences at Murdoch, the research trial involves placing special tracking collars on lone camels who then betrays the whereabouts of larger groups.
Prof. Spencer says the camels threaten biodiversity, agriculture and bio-security in these regions but controlling their numbers in remote areas is expensive and logistically challenging.
WHY IT WORKS
The technique relies on the social nature of the invasive species – in this case, the dromedary camel – which number around one million in remote areas of arid central Australia.
“The Judas technique relies upon the target species exhibiting sufficient flexibility in their social structure for monitored individuals to detect, and be accepted by multiple animal cohorts. Basically, a single tracked individual does all the hard work by finding other groups of camels that would normally be very difficult to locate.
Previous trials have proved successful in controlling gregarious, invasive species such as feral goats.
DNA profiling data was also collected from 1,050 camels and used to characterise the genetic diversity and relatedness within and between observed social groups.
Prof. Spencer and his team of researchers found the camel groups were not defined by relatedness meaning they had a social structure that would be conducive to applying the Judas technique.
This discovery runs contrary to the prevailing opinion that camel groups were dictated by familial relationships, such as with elephants where groups comprise principally of females and their genetically-related offspring.
Ten camels were collared and tracked for periods of time across two years. Judas camels were found with other animals on 96 per cent of occasions.
While an effective method for controlling the animals in areas of low population density, Dr Spencer admitted that it was still expensive and he recommended it be used in conjunction with other control methods.
The full details of Professor Spencer et al’s research were recently published in The Journal of Wildlife Management. Their paper is entitled Genetic relationships within social groups influence the application of the Judas technique: A case study with wild dromedary camels.