NOODLE the camel earned his name because he took a peculiar interest in the rustling and scrunching of pasta packets.
Living in a paddock on the outskirts of Katherine in the Northern Territory with a small mob of cattle, the camel was a tourist attraction of sorts, with caravanners traveling through the town stopping to feed Noodle scraps of old cabbages and bananas collected on their journeys.
However it was the crunching of the two-minute noodle packets which would spark the camel’s curiosity anytime it was rustled, with the animal rushing over enthusiastically to nestle into the packet and chew into the dry noodle block.
Shawn McCulloch was the man who had uncovered Noodle’s interest in pasta.
Shawn grew up on a hobby farm on the outskirts of Melbourne and worked in the city and across the Northern Territory in a series of hospitality and station cook positions before he took on the difficult task of seeing Australia on the back of a camel.
He has spent the past four years attempting to make an epic journey from Brisbane to Broome.
Shawn purchased his first trio of camels via an advertisement in Queensland Country Life in 2008 and had soon began pushing the animals across the Lockyer Valley and up the Toowoomba range, all the while learning about camels, an animal he had no previous experience.
In need of money when he reached Charleville, he left the camels to spell on a property outside the town while he travelled solo to the Northern Territory in search of work.
Shawn was cleaning motels and a school at Katherine when he first encountered Noodle the camel. He soon tracked down the camel’s owner and wanted to purchase the animal.
After hearing about his Brisbane to Broome quest, the camel’s owner gave his away to Shawn, who quickly acquired a buggy and began training Noodle to pull Shawn’s gear along the highway.
Tourists and truck drivers would pull over for a yarn when they encountered the unlikely sight of Shawn and Noodle and the buggy on the Northern Territory highways.
In the meantime, Shawn heard a radio report about plans to introduce a 10cent recycling payment for any cans collected in the Northern Territory.
Shawn saw an opportunity to earn money on the move and before long was able to pull his camel and buggy overflowing with cans collected from stations and aboriginal settlements, earning up to $500 per day.
However, this is a story about the death of Noodle.
In a callous act which has devastated Shawn McCulloch and angered some in the Channel Country, the camel was last month shot in the paddock it was being spelled in about 70km east of Birdsville as Shawn worked in Bedourie to raise some much needed money before he continued on his journey.
Shawn plans to continue his journey, however he is furious someone would attack the animal for no reason.
A police investigation is currently underway.
Shawn said it is also a significant setback because he will now be forced to train another camel to pull his buggy before he can continue his push to Broome.
“I can’t do anything about what has happened, but it does make me very angry,” he said.
“It has been a big learning curve for me to learn all about camels during the past few years – you are with them every day and you develop a strong bond with the animals.”
“The camel was specifically trained to pull my buggy and now I have to get back to Charleville and train a new camel.”
Police say whoever is responsible for the camel’s death could face charges of unlawful killing.
Officer in charge of the Bedourie Police Station Senior Constable Tim Farran said police arrived at the scene on September 27 to take photographic evidence of the shooting, where they found the camel’s head had been removed.
He said police believed the camel was shot at close range when the animal was near the roadside.
“I cannot understand why anyone would have shot this camel,” Senior Constable Tim Farran said.
“We are hoping someone in the community might have heard someone brag about shooting the camel and will report it to police.”
“Obviously the head has been removed to make it difficult for us to locate the bullet. It would have been very clear to anyone that the camel was domesticated – anyone would have been able to tell it was not a feral camel. We would like anyone in the community who has information to come forward.”
If you have any information which might assist the police investigation please contact the Bedourie Police Station on (07) 4746 1220 or anonymously on Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.