Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bactrian Camel

Can you believe it's been an entire year of Animal A Day already? To celebrate this monumental occasion I wanted to write about one my my favorite animals that I haven't yet talked about : The Bactrian Camel. These two humped ungulates are quite interesting because there are over 1,000,000 of them, yet they are critically endangered!

You see, Bactrian Camels were domesticated over 4,000 years ago, and almost every single Camel we have left  is considered domesticated. There are only between 800 and 1,000 truly wild Bactrians left, which is why they are listed as critically endangered. In fact, the wild and domesticated Camels are considered by the IUCN and a few other groups to be separate species. C. ferus is the wild variety, while C. bactrianus is the domesticated. (Other groups class them all under C. bactrianus)

These wild herds can only be found in four small subpopulations in China and Mongolia, though their historic range spread across Asia. There are several causes for the species decline, including subsistence hunting (even in protected areas), predation, drought, competition with livestock, and interbreeding with domestic herds.

Bactrian Camels at the Milwaukee County Zoo
Wild Bactrian Camels are well adapted to harsh, arid environments where temperatures can fluctuate nearly 150 degrees Fahrenheit! They have shaggy coats that grow thicker in winter, but shed in the summer. Additionally, they have very long eyelashes and hair lined ears that keep those parts safe from blowing sand and strong winds. These Camels also have large, padded feet that assist them in moving over difficult terrain, and are able to consume just about any type of vegetation and drink brackish water to keep themselves going. Overall they are a hardy, well suited species within their wild homes.

Domesticated Bactrian Camels are a remarkably useful species to humans. They are strong and large, and can be used as both pack animals and for riding transportation. Meat and milk are consumed, hair and hides are used for a variety of purposes, and even dung can be used as fire fuel!

IUCN Status :  Critically Endangered (wild population)
Location : Domestic populations live worldwide, wild population are restricted to China and Mongolia
Size : Hump height up to 7ft (2.2m), Weight 1,000lbs (455kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Artiodactyla
Family : Camelidae -- Genus : Camelus -- Species : C. bactrianus, C. ferus

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