Yorkshire Wildlife Park is proud to have one of the largest herds of Bactrian camels, including recent additions Merlin and Marvin, born in 2020. In the wild, camels will live in herds of 6 – 22 individuals.
The true wild Bactrian camel (much of the camel population in zoos and parks has a domestic camel influence and is not truly wild) has evolved independently from other camels so it is a distinct species and is in need of protection. They are only found in the deserts of Mongolia and China and there is thought to be less than a thousand left surviving in this harsh environment.
To live in this unforgiving habitat the wild Bactrian camel has evolved some remarkable adaptations which you can see by looking at our own camels. Probably their most noticeable adaptation is their two big humps, which contrary to popular belief do not store water but store fat as a reserve for when food is scarce, as their fat is depleted their humps become floppy.
Another adaptation that you may see (if you come often enough) is their fur coat, because temperatures vary so much in their habitat (38°C in the summer and -29°C in the winter) they can grow thick coats in the winter and shed their coats ready for the summer.
Wild Bactrian camel’s are critically endangered in the wild due to hunting for meat and their hide, loss of habitat through farming and mining, and loss of their water holes for domestic animal use.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation recently funded a major conservation project where six wild Bactrian Camels were released back into the wild. The Bactrian camels had to be taken across in hospitable terrain to release points at oasis sites 600 and 250 kilometres from their breeding centre near the Mongolia-China border in journeys that took up to 15 hours.
They were transported in trucks, specially adapted to cope with the rugged terrain and, after monitoring, all six trotted off happily into the wild. The British Ambassador to Mongolia, Caroline Arnold, was thrilled to watch the release which was handled by the Wild Camel Protection Fund, in protected areas recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme for the camels’ new homes.
The camels have been fitted with satellite collars so the project can monitor their movements and it is hoped they can provide fresh blood for existing herds. Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation, which is supported by the kind donations of visitors to YWP, was instrumental in the carefully co-ordinated release.
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