Species: Wild Bactrian camel (Camelus ferus)
Status: Critically Endangered (CR)
Interesting Fact: In some areas, wild Bactrian camels have developed the ability to drink salt-water slush: they are the only mammals capable of this.
Wild Bactrian camels usually form family groups led by a dominant male, although in the rutting season herds of up to 100 may gather together. These camels migrate vast distances in search of food and water, and feed mainly on shrubs. Their humps are a rich fat store, allowing them to go for long periods without food.
Wild Bactrian camels are well adapted for the harsh desert life. They can conserve water by producing dry faeces and little urine. They also allow their body temperature to fluctuate, limiting water loss through sweat. These camels are able to drink as much as 57 litres at one time in order to replenish lost water reserves. Dense eyelashes and narrow nostrils can be closed tightly in sandstorms, their feet are able to spread widely on sandy ground, and their coat becomes thick and shaggy in the winter to handle temperatures of -30 degrees Celsius.
A distinct species from domestic camels, wild Bactrian camels were previously found across the deserts of southern Mongolia and north-western China. Centuries of hunting for their meat means that now only fragmented populations remain. Continued persecution, competition with domestic animals and hybridisation with domestic camels further threatens this species.
The Wild Camel Protection Foundation (WCPF) began a captive breeding programme in 2003 in Mongolia. Wild camels are protected in the Great Gobi Reserve in Mongolia, and the ‘Lop Nur Wild Camel Reserve’ in China, in an effort by both governments to protect this trans-boundary migrating routes.
Find out more about the wild Bactrian camel on the Wild Camel Protection Foundation website