A trio of villages in southern Russia was recently greeted by some unusual visitors when a local pensioner set his herd of about 80 camels free.
Yuri Serebryakov, 83, had owned his many-humped herd for 25 years in the Astrakhan region near the border with Kazakhstan. He set them free to roam the steppes as they please after realizing his age prevents him from properly caring for them.
The novelty of living among a camel herd quickly wore off for people living in the villages of Oranzherei, Fyodorovka and Ninovka, who told regional prosecutors this week that the camels are breaking water and gas pipelines, damaging fences and trampling gardens.
Locals told prosecutors that the “camel invasion” has made them afraid to leave their homes and let their kids play outside, as several of the animals that gave birth this spring behave aggressively toward humans.
“If you look them directly in the eyes... the animal chases you, and you have to run away,” one resident told Interfax.
Other reports say the animals have been spotted vandalizing gravestones in a local cemetery.
Serebryakov has refused to take responsibility for his chaotic camels, saying he can’t help that their favorite food, camelthorns, is commonly found in the villages and that the gas pipelines and fences were simply constructed poorly.
Local authorities have issued six fines against Serebryakov this year, all of which he has reportedly ignored.
Regional prosecutors told the state-run TASS news agency that they need to verify the residents’ claims before they can intervene.