Jun 18

Do you love camels as much we do? The Arkive  Team had the wonderful opportunity to chat with the amazing folks at the Wild Camel Protection Foundation to learn all about what they do and their current essay competition with cash prizes!

Can camels drink saltwater? Did you know that you can help camel conservation right this second? Read on to find out more!

Wild-Bactrian-camel-with-newborn-calf

Wild Bactrian camel with newborn calf

Can you tell us the story behind the formation of the Wild Camel Protection Foundation?

In 1997, the Wild Camel Protection Foundation (WCPF) was founded after John Hare realised the wild camel was critically endangered. After several expeditions he made with scientists in Mongolia and three expeditions with Chinese scientists into Lop Nur – the former nuclear test area of China and the habitat of the wild camel – the global estimate of wild camels was found to be less than 1,000 remaining in the wild. In China they were totally unprotected. Co-founding the UK registered charitable foundation WCPF with environmental lawyer Kathryn Rae, the first aim was to establish a protected area for the wild camels in China. Working together with eminent zoologist Professor Yuan Guoying, the Chinese national, and regional authorities and later securing funding from the Global Environmental Facility in Washington, WCPF established a vast reserve – the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve in Xinjiang province in north-west China. Comprising 155,000 square kilometres, it is one of the largest protected areas in the world and for the first time afforded protection to the remaining wild camels in China. WCPF is the only environmental organisation in the world which protects the wild camel in its remaining desert habitat.

As experts on the wild Bactrian camel, what are some of the most interesting facts and stories that you can share about this special species?

The wild camel in China survived 43 atmospheric nuclear tests of which over half were more powerful than the atomic bomb which was dropped on Hiroshima at the end of the second world war. It lives in China on salt water with a higher content of salt than sea water. No other mammal can do this – not even the domestic Bactrian camel. In 2008, after 5 years of genetic testing at the Veterinary University in Vienna it was discovered that the wild double-humped camel is a separate species of camel, one which evolved from a species of camel over 700,000 years ago.

Young-wild-Bactrian-camel

Young wild Bactrian camel

Can you share some field stories about how the Wild Camel Protection Foundation protects the wild Bactrian camel and its habitat in the Gobi and Gashun Gobi deserts?

In China, the management of the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve supervise the running of the reserve and undertake regular patrols in areas where the wild camels survive.  Checkpoints in the reserve were established with money raised by the WCPF. One of the greatest threats to the wild camel is illegal mining where prospectors go illegally into the desert in an attempt to discover minerals or oil. This greatly disturbs the wild camel which is a migratory species and follows set paths of migration every year. In Mongolia, the wild camel population (approximately 450) is within the Great Gobi Special Protected Area “A’. WCPF works closely with the Director of the protected area and the Mongolian Environmental Ministry. WCPF has established a successful breeding centre for the wild camel in the buffer zone of the park. This is supervised by the Park Director and funded entirely by WCPF. 

Dr. Jane Goodall is a world-renowned chimp champion yet she has dedicated herself to the Wild Camel Protection Foundation as Honorary Life Patron. How did this come about?

Dr. Jane Goodall has been a personal friend of John Hare for over 40 years and, although a primate scientist, she is dedicated to the cause of the wild camel. She greatly admires its tenacity to survive against all the odds in some of the harshest conditions on earth. WCPF worked with the Jane Goodall Institute to establish their Roots and Shoots programme in China.

Wild-Bactrian-camel-standing-in-desert-landscape

Wild Bactrian camel standing in desert landscape

Looking at your Future Scientific Projects section, you list several critical focus areas for future wild camel conservation efforts. Which would you say has the highest priority?

The highest priority is to ascertain the carrying capacity of the desert areas in both Mongolia and China where the wild camel is found. The environment is extremely harsh with sparse desert vegetation and little water found only at water points. These water points change and dry-up so understanding how the desert habitat changes is crucial and would be part of a study to identify how many wild camels these two fragile habitats can support long term. Identifying ways to stop degradation of the desert habitat through mining both illegal and legal is also very important as it is a major problem for the survival of the wild camel in both countries 

What has been your favourite conservation success story at the Wild Camel Protection Foundation? And conversely, what has been your saddest conservation defeat?

Success: Discovering a hidden and unmapped valley in China which contained a naive population of wildlife which had never seen man. Defeat: Going back 7 years later to discover that the wildlife population had been exterminated and the water source polluted  by illegal gold miners. 

Herd-of-wild-Bactrian-camels-walking-in-desert-landscape

Herd of wild Bactrian camels walking in desert landscape

At Wildscreen, we strive to find multiple ways for our passionate audience to take action in support of the organisations we partner with. What specific actions can our readers take to support the conservation of wild Bactrian camels with the Wild Camel Protection Foundation?

They can become active members of WCPF for a small annual fee of £20 sterling or the equivalent in Euros/Dollars a year. They can buy the booklets about the wild camel which are available through the WCPF websiteAll money raised goes to fund the work in Mongolia. They can sponsor a camel calf. Young camel calves are born every year at the breeding centre in Mongolia and WCPF requires approximately $2,500 a year over three years for medicines, vet visits and hay to ensure each one of these young wild camel calves survive. Individuals can sponsor and name a young wild camel and have the opportunity to follow its development. Every year WCPF visits the protected areas in both countries and this is a major overhead cost for the Foundation.  Winter hay is essential for the 25 wild camels at the breeding centre in Mongolia and costs WCPF $15,000 a year. This money has to be raised annually by the WCPF. It should be noted that all the trustees work for the Foundation on an entirely pro bono basis.

Can you tell us a little about the essay competition you are currently running?

Every year we hold a fundraiser, with the aim of both raising awareness of the plight of the wild camel and its rare desert habitat and also to raise the funds necessary to feed the wild camels in our captive breeding centre, in Mongolia, over the winter. This year we are holding an essay competition, which is kindly sponsored by Cotswold Wildlife Park. The title of the essay is “Why should the critically endangered wild camel be protected”. The competition is open to everyone, with both an adult and a junior category. As well as knowing you are helping the wild camel and its habitat there is also the opportunity to win the top prize of £500 and you will get to name one of the calves born next year! The full terms and conditions can be found on our website

Wild-Bactrian-camel-walking

Wild Bactrian camel walking

We hope you enjoyed learning about the incredible work of the Wild Camel Protection Foundation. Can you pledge to take action to support their efforts? Click the “Wish List” below to log your support. Each doing our own small part, we can turn the tide for camel conservation!

wish list button

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA