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Animal Detail ViewՄանրամասն` նրանց մասին

28.02.2012

Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus)


Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla

Family: Camelidae

Genus: Camelus

Species: Camelus bactrianus

 

Description

The most noticeable features of Bactrian Camels are their two humps. At the hump, average height is 213 cm (2.13 meters). From head to tail, they measure 260 to 400 cm and weigh 300 to 690 kg.  A thick, shaggy, dark brown to beige coat covers the camel during cold weather and is shed when the temperature rises. Longer hair hangs from the neck and gives the appearance of a beard. Bushy eyebrows, a double row of eyelashes, ears lined with hair and the ability to close nostrils and lips tightly serve as protection from harsh, blowing winds and sand. Their tough, even-toed feet help them to cross the rocky deserts of Asia and travel well through snow or sand.

Bactrians rarely sweat, helping them conserve fluids for long periods of time. In winter, plants may yield enough moisture to sustain a camel without water for several weeks.

Like Arabian camels, Bactrians' nostrils close to keep sand at bay, and their bushy eyebrows and two rows of long eyelashes protect their eyes. Big, flat footpads help them navigate the rough rocky terrain and shifting desert sands without sinking under their own massive bulk or the weight of heavy packs.

The only truly wild camels that still exist are Bactrian camels. These herds survive in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and China but number less than 1,000.

These camels may live up to 50 years.

 

Diet

Camels are herbivores. They are able to eat plants that are dry, prickly, salty, and/or bitter, but prefer any kind of vegetation. When other nutrient sources are not available, these camels may feed on bones, other animals' skin, or different kinds of flesh. In more extreme conditions, they may eat rope, sandals, and even tents. Their ability to feed on a wide range of foods allows them to live in areas with sparse vegetation.

With tough mouths that can withstand sharp objects such as thorns, the digestion process begins. The first time food is swallowed it is not fully chewed. The partly masticated food (called cud) goes into the stomach and later is brought back up for further chewing.

Camels can go for several days without water. When water is available, they drink only to replace what is missing from their body. This amount can vary from nothing to 135 liters. A very thirsty animal can drink this amount in only 13 minutes. The camel also has the ability to quench its thirst with salty or brackish water. In the winter months, plants alone provide water.

A common misconception is that the camel's humps are for water storage. In reality, the humps contain a large amount of fat and are use for nourishment when food is scarce. This feature gives the camel the capability to go many days without eating. Each hump can hold up to 36 kg of fat. The hump decreases in size and become flabby as its contents are metabolized. Depletion of the hump is directly linked to the time between eating and the amount of energy expended. Thus, the size of the hump serves as an indication of the camel's health, food supply and general well-being.

Habitat and Range

The camels are migratory, and their habitat ranges from rocky mountain massifs to flat arid desert, stony planes and sand dunes. Conditions are extremely harsh – vegetation is sparse, water sources are limited and temperatures are extreme, ranging from as low as -40°C in winter to 40°C in summer. The camels’ distribution is linked to the availability of water, with large groups congregating near rivers after rain or at the foot of the mountains, where water can be obtained from springs in the summer months, and in the form of snow during the winter.

They live not in shifting Sahara sands but in Central and East Asia's rocky deserts. They are found along rivers in the Siberian steppe during winter but disperse into the desert when snows melt in spring. Bactrian camels have developed special adaptations to allow them to survive in such a brutal environment. One is a thick, shaggy coat that protects them in winter and falls away as seasons change and temperatures rise.

The species has suffered a drastic reduction in its range. It now occurs only in three separated habitats in northwest China (Lake Lob, Taklimikan desert and the ranges of Arjin Shan) and one in the Trans-Altai Gobi desert of southwest Mongolia. The largest population lives in the Gashun Gobi (Lop Nur) Desert in Xinjiang Province, China, which was for 45 years used as a test site for nuclear weapons.

Behavior

Domestic camels travel in caravans across the desert. An adult male acts as leader for a small group that may consist of six to twenty others. Group size is largely dependent on the amount of food available and larger groups will sometimes congregate around water.  Constant speed must be maintained at all times while moving. To help ensure this tempo the camels move by pacing. Pacing consists of two legs on the same side of the body moving at once, creating a rolling motion. This shifts the weight from side to side; a passenger may find this movement very uncomfortable. Camels also have the capability to run and can do so at ten to twenty miles per hour.

Reproduction

Mating season occurs in the fall. Males during this time are often violent and may bite, spit, or attempt to sit on other male camels. The age of sexual maturity varies, but is usually reached at three to five years. Gestation lasts thirteen months, with most young being born from March through April. One or occasionally two calves are produced. Females can give birth to a new calf every other year. The baby calf is precocial, having the ability to stand at birth and walk only a few hours after. The young calf stays with its mother for three to five years, until it reaches sexual maturity. Wild camels sometimes breed with domesticated or feral camels as well.

Economic Importance

Close to 3,500 years ago people first tamed wild camels and domesticated them; now almost all are domestic. The original purpose of domestication was probably to use their size and strength. Camels carry packages long distances to market and are used as a form of transportation. By the age of one year, the camel can take voice cammands from their owner. Humans also use many of the camel's by-products, especially camel meat and milk. Fat from the humps is melted down and serves in cooking. Dung provides fuel for heating. Loose hair is used for making clothes, blankets, carpets, and tents. The tanned hide is used to make shoes, sandals, and other leather products. In some countries, camels are an indication of wealth.

Conservation Status

Bactrian camels are classified as Critically Endangered (CR A3de+4ade) on the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Bactrian camels were thought to be extinct in the wild until an expedition found some wild of them in the Gobi desert in 1957. These wild groups are in the severe danger of going extinct and little is known about them. There are approximately 600 individuals surviving in China and 350 in Mongolia. In contrast, there are over 2 million domestic Bactrian camels currently living in Central Asia. Compared to domestic camels, wild camels have smaller humps, smaller feet, shorter hair and a more slender body shape.

Population size is decreasing. The Mongolian population has almost halved in the last twenty years and there is every indication that the situation is just as serious for the Chinese populations.

The species is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or the Bonn Convention). The governments of China and Mongolia have agreed to cooperate in order to protect the species and its fragile desert ecosystem. Assisted by the Wild Camel Protection Foundation (WCPF), the two governments have adopted an ecosystem-based management program which aims to protect the biodiversity of the Great Gobi Desert. Two reserves have been created – the ‘Great Gobi Reserve A’ in Mongolia in 1982, and the Arjin Shan Lop Nur Nature Reserve in China in 2000. These reserves provide a safe habitat for a wide range of endangered desert animals and plants, as well as the wild camels. The WCPF also aims to increase the population of the species through captive breeding. In 2003 it established a sanctuary in Zakhyn-Us, Mongolia, which has some of the last non-hybridised herds of Bactrian camels. Initial breeding attempts have been successful, with several calves having been born since the programme’s inception.

Education programs are urgently needed to raise public awareness of the potential negative effects of cross-breeding between the wild camels and their domestic relatives. Protected area laws need to be enforced to prevent encroachment and illegal mining in the reserves. Individuals from the Mongolian reserve frequently migrate across the border to China, where they are either killed by hunters or from eating vegetation poisoned by potassium cyanide (a by-product from the illegal gold mining that occurs here). The WCPF have therefore proposed the establishment of a second reserve in China to protect these animals.

Threats

The species has suffered greatly at the hands of humans. It has lost habitat to mining and industrial development, and has been forced to compete with introduced livestock  for food and water. Farmers hunt the camel for this reason, and many individuals are lost every year when the camels migrate out of protected areas and onto land set aside for grazing. Domestic Bactrian camels are amongst the animals introduced to these areas. They graze alongside reserves containing their wild relatives, and there is much concern that interbreeding and subsequent hybridization will lead to the loss of the genetically distinct wild camel.

Short Facts

Camels were first domesticated 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.  Most domestic camels today are dromedaries living in Africa.  Domestic Bactrians live in Central Asia.  Camels can carry hundreds of pounds of cargo up to 30 miles a day.

Unlike many other animals, camels move both legs on one side of the body at the same time.

A camel's poop is so dry you can use it immediately to start a fire.

Camels have a reputation for spitting but they don't, it would be a waste of water. What they are actually doing is vomiting on you.

It is believed that Aristotle was the first person to call the two-humped camel “Bactrian”. The name probably comes from a large area in Central Asia.

Wild Bactrian camels are the only land mammals that can drink salt water to satisfy their thirst.

The temperature in deserts where these camels inhabit rises to about 38° C in the summer and falls to as low as -29° C in the winter. Bactrian camels adapt to both the extremes of climatic conditions.

Though they prefer to walk, these camels are excellent runners. They can run at a speed of 10-20 mph.



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