ALICE SPRINGS, Australia — Australian authorities plan to corral about 6,000 wild camels with helicopters and gun them down after they overran a small Outback town in search of water, trampling fences, smashing water tanks and contaminating supplies.
The Northern Territory government announced its plan Wednesday for Docker River, a town of 350 residents where thirsty camels have been arriving daily for weeks because of drought conditions in the region.
"The community of Docker River is under siege by 6,000 marauding, wild camels," local government minister Rob Knight said in Alice Springs, 310 miles northeast of Docker. "This is a very critical situation out there, it's very unusual and it needs urgent action."
The camels, which are not native to Australia, were first brought there in the 1840s to help explorers travel through the desert, and now an estimated 1 million roam wild across the country.
They have smashed water tanks, approached houses to try to take water from air conditioning units, and knocked down fencing at the small airport runway, Knight said.
The carcasses of camels killed in stampedes at water storage areas are contaminating the water supply, he added.
The government plans to use helicopters to herd the camels out of town next week, where they will be shot and their carcasses left to decay in the desert.
"We don't have the luxury of time because the herd is getting bigger," Knight said.