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Animal Data > Bactrian Camel

(Camelus bactrianus)

Status Distribution Sexually Mature
Critically Endangered Deserts and arid grasslands of Central Asia. Bactrian Camel are considered critically endangered in the wild, although numerous in domesticated populations. 4-5 years
Number of Young Gestation Life Span
1 390 days 40 years

Bactrian Camel
(Click for larger image)

Bactrian camels are superbly adapted to desert life. In winter, a thick shaggy coat provides excellent insulation whereas a short, dense summer coat provides protection from the sun during the day, and warmth during the summer nights. The winter coat is shed very quickly, with the wool coming off in clumps. Heavy eyebrows and long eyelashes, hairy lips and ears, and closable, slit-like nostrils also provide protection in severe sandstorms.

Large, broad feet stop the camel sinking into the sand as it walks. These feet are unusual as the weight of the animal rests on the soles of the feet, not on the hoofs themselves as in other hoofed mammals. Only the front ends of the hoofs touch the ground. Although they may look awkward, camels can run up to 65km per hour.

Camels don't usually sweat- they actually let their body temperature rise by as much as 6-8ÂșC. This means they don't have to cool themselves by sweating and therefore don't waste valuable water. If they're not working, camels can survive for up to 10 months without drinking. They gather moisture from the plants that they eat, such as thorns, dry vegetation and salt which other mammals tend to avoid. They can cope with losing a lot on water- up to 40% of their body weight, but will drink up to 57 litres of water in one go when dehydrated!

Wild populations of bactrian camels were common until the 1920's. Gradually they have become restricted to relatively small areas of south-west Mongolia and north-west China, and are now endangered.

Main Features

Two humps-used for storing fat. Thick, shaggy coat, especially on head, neck, shoulders and humps, and on front of chest.

Camels can spit a smelly, green fluid up to five metres at annoying objects, including people!

Camels belong to the same family as the lama and the vicugna.

In Captivity

Although rare in the wild, Bactrian camels are common in captivity. They have been domesticated since the 3rd and 4th Centuries BC. They are used as pack animals, but also provide wool, skins and milk.

There have been camels at Marwell since early 1973. They are fed on pony nuts, bran, flaked maize and carrots.

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