Wild Bactrian camels are critically endangered due to hunting, habitat loss, illegal mining activities and competition with livestock for grazing areas.
Meet the Bactrian camel
Here is a list of eleven things you might not know about the beautiful Bactrian, plus seven general camel facts that also apply to the mammal:
- The wild Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus ferus) is genetically distinct from the domestic Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus).
- Wild Bactrian camels are the only species of wild camel of any type. Not-so-cool: The wild one-humped dromedary camel (Camelus dromedarius) is already extinct.
- Not-so-cool fact: There are fewer than 1,000 wild Bactrian camels left in the Gobi Desert; about 600 are in China and about 350 in Mongolia.
- About fifteen wild Bactrian camels are currently in captivity in China and Mongolia.
- Wild Bactrian camels endured 45 years of nuclear testing by China in the Gashun Gobi. Somehow, these resilient animals survived.
- It is believed that the ancestors of all camels looked like today’s wild Bactrian camels: In the embryonic stage, one-humped camels have a small second hump that does not develop further.
- Bactrian camels are the only land mammal that can quench their thirst with salt water. Domestic Bactrian camels do not share this adaptation.
- Bactrian camels are adapted to a wide range of temperatures. Extreme summer heat in Central and East Asia’s desert can reach well over 100° F (38° C) and drop to -20° F (-29° C) in winter. A thick coat protects them in the winter and is shed in the summer.
- It is thought that Aristotle was the first to describe the two-humped camel as “Bactrian” when comparing it to the single-humped “Arabian” camel. Bactria was the ancient name of a large area in central Asia.
- The two humps of the Bactrian are for storing fat, which sustains the camel when food and water is not available. The humps become soft and floppy as the fat is depleted.
- Bactrian camels rarely sweat, and in the winter, they may get enough moisture from plants to go without water for several weeks.
Seven more facts about camels:
- A group of camels is called a flock or a caravan.
- A camel can indeed go long periods of time without water – precisely how long depends upon the temperature, the camel’s activity, and what type of food it is eating.
- Thirsty camels can drink 30 gallons (135 liters) of water in less than 15 minutes.
- Over a four-day period, a camel can haul 375 to 600 pounds (170 to 270 kilograms) at rates of 29 miles (47 kilometers) a day and 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) an hour.
- To keep sand out of their eyes, camels have double rows of long eyelashes, and they can cover their eye with a clear inner eyelid (nictitating membrane). They can also close their nostrils.
- Camels don’t actually spit – it’s more like projectile vomiting. When camels feel threatened, they bring up their stomach contents and project it out, hoping to surprise, distract, or bother the offending party.
- The life span is up to 50 years; average is 30 – 40 years.
To learn how you can help save critically endangered wild Bactrian camels, please visit the Wild Camels Protection Foundation.
- Wild Camels Protection Foundation
- National Geographic
- San Diego Zoo
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
- Zoological Society of London
- The Silk Road