New England Camel Co: Sanctuary under threat as drought pushes on

New England Camel Co has hit a drought-sized hump in the road.

It's the only camel sanctuary in Australia, and owner Naomi Hooper has taken in 50 of the desert-dwellers at her property near Armidale, in NSW's New England region..

Without any meaningful rain in sight and feed becoming more expensive, Ms Hooper is on the brink of making the move to the coast.

"The sanctuary is a bit of a fail at the moment with the drought. Normally I take sad animals and make them happy," she said.

"I used to have it open three or four days a week with busloads of people coming in.

"A lot of troubled kids from town would come, but with the drought I haven't had the open days because feed costs so much.

"I'm an expensive, big failure at this point."

Camels that were able to work provided an income: Ms Hooper ran treks out west.

When she tried to expand her business in Armidale and Tamworth, the costs of a permit made it unfeasible.

"Tamworth Regional Council wanted $400 a day to do camel rides in the park. Armidale Regional Council wanted $700 a day," she said.

"So I have to look for one on the coast, which makes life hard, because none of the animals get sold."

Many of the camels Ms Hooper has taken in are bought as pets, but weren't disciplined. Ms Hooper retrains them and only the best give rides to the public. As the drought pushes on, some of the camels have been given temporary homes around Ebor.

The animals eat a lot of roughage cattle won't, so farmers are happy to have them clear out blocks overrun with weeds or blackberries, Ms Hooper said.

"Some of the ones that come are in really poor condition and miserable," she said.

"I'm the only one [sanctuary] in Australia.

"I get criticised because Australia has a lot of wild camels - but if there's a few here or there suffering because people have abandoned them, you have to show empathy and compassion.

"Having a mob of camels is like having a lot of dogs - they are affectionate, bossy, really loving and smart. I'm probably addicted to camels."

Ms Hooper is still looking for places to temporarily home her camels.

She's taken a job off the farm in the interim to pay for costs of feed and managing the sanctuary.

With the drought unlikely to break soon, moving to the coast is quickly becoming the most viable option.

"The lack of empathy people are showing their animals, hoping it will rain while animals starve to death," she said.

"I can't take them on if I can't provide for them.

"I think a lot of it is very inhumane - that's why I have the sanctuary."

This story One-of-a-kind sanctuary hits a camel-sized hump in the road first appeared on The Northern Daily Leader.