Wild camels from Australia's Outback may soon be giving you rides at US zoos
Move over, kangaroo. The camel, too, may yet become a symbol of Australia's wildlife - that is, if Australians get around to exporting them as successfully as they hope.
In future years those one-humped dromedaries that give you or your kids a ride at the animal show may be about as Middle Eastern as a koala bear.
Australia does not expect camel exports to even remotely rival items such as uranium, coal, cattle, and wool as earners of foreign exchange.
But Australia is already exporting its energetic racing camels to Saudi Arabia. And vigorous strains of Aussie camels may also prove a welcome addition to American circuses, zoos, animal shows, and breeders.
The reason: Most of Australia's estimated 100,000 camels have been roaming wild in Australia's Outback.
That is one of the attractions for animal show owners like Peter Brewer of the Southwick Wild Animal Farm in Blackstone, Mass. He is one of a small but growing number of American animal owners and breeders who are inquiring into the feasibility of importing Australian camels. He hopes that Australian dromedaries , when bred with this country's domesticated and in-bred camels, will give the American camel population fresh energy.
According to Dr. Edward J. Humphries, veterinary attache at the Australian Embassy in Washington, D.C., ''In the last five years the number of inquiries about buying our camels from overseas has risen. That has spurred Australian ranchers to round up wild camels for possible export.''
But for camel shoppers like Peter Brewer, prices can be high. With shipping and quarantine costs, he calculates that the final take-home price tag for a camel could run from $5,000 to $10,000.
Australian exporters seem undeterred. One sign, as reported on Radio Australia's shortwave transmission from Melbourne: With the assistance of an Australian government grant, rancher George Conaghan of Gracemere, Queensland, will soon be making a two-month visit to the United States, Canada, and Mexico to sound out possible camel markets.