Bactrian camel (Camelus ferus)

Bactrian Camel

Behind the tiger playground, making occasional appearances in the paddock adjacent.

Fast facts

Status Critically Endangered

Size Head and body: 2.25-3.45m. Tail length: 35-55cm. Height at the shoulder: 1.8-2.3 m.

Weight 600-1000kg.

Gestation 12-14 months

Young 1

Life span Up to 40 years in the wild, up to 50 years in captivity

What do I eat?

Wild Bactrian camels eat shrubs and grasses. They’re also known for eating plants that other animals avoid, including thorny, salty and dried plants.

These animals are able to go without water and food for a long time, as their humps contain fat which gives them energy when there is little to eat or drink. When they do find water they will drink as much as they can, which can be up to 130 litres - equivalent to a full bathtub!

Where do I live?

Wild Bactrian camels are found in the Gobi and Gashun Gobi deserts in northwest China and Mongolia.

These deserts are not all sand – they also contain rocky mountain areas as well as flat dry plains and arid sandy deserts.

Breeding

Bactrian camels live in groups of up to 30 animals that are led by a dominant male. The mating season tends to be in the cold winter, with the males fighting each other for breeding females.

When the female is about to give birth she’ll move away from the group to have her calf. Within their first hour of life the calf will stand up, take their first steps and feed from their mother. The young calf will start to eat plants from 2-3 months old, and will continue to feed from the mother until about 1-2 years old. Camels are able to breed from around 5 years old.

Predators

Due to their large size, Bactrian camels are rarely hunted by natural predators. However wolves can become a problem, mainly to younger animals and during times of drought (when there is very little water) as the camels will gather around water sources making them easy targets.

Conservation

Bactrian camels are facing many threats in the wild, such as losing their habitat to farming, and competition for food and water with livestock. Because of this, farmers have been known to hunt camels to make more room for their own animals to find food and water.

These animals have also been hunted for their meat and hides for centuries.

There are many conservation projects that have been put in place for Bactrian camels, especially in areas in the Gobi and Gashun Gobi desert. Bactrian camels are also linked with captive breeding programmes in animal collections worldwide, to conserve the species in captivity.

Did you know?

Bactrian camels often have very dry faeces because their body absorbs every bit of moisture it can!

They have specialised kidneys which mean that they produce very small amounts of urine. They’re even able to adjust their body temperature which helps to minimize the need to sweat.

If there is no fresh water around, Bactrian camels are able to drink salty water which domestic camels will not drink.

To protect their eyes from sandstorms, Bactrian camels have two rows of long thick eyelashes as well as bushy eyebrows to keep the sand out. They are also able to close their narrow nostrils to keep the sand out of their noses!

Bactrian camels have wide flat hooves which help them to walk on sandy ground without sinking and getting stuck!

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