Wednesday, September 14, 2016

By, J.E. Rogers

Two humps, one hump, what’s the big deal?

Well, it is a big deal, and this week we’re going to learn a bit about humps by taking a look at a special camel. This camel is special because it is one of the world’s most critically endangered mammals. Meet the camel which is considered the ancestor of all camels.

Meet the Bactrian Camel.

Right away I think you’ll notice that this guy has two humps. Dromedary Camels have only one hump.

Dromedary Camel
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Many one-humped camels make their home in the middle east (there are also over one million in Australia, but that’s another story.) The two-humped camel, the Bactrian, lives in Asia, particularly the Gobi Desert of China and Mongolia.

Although they look alike in many ways, the Bactrian Camel is a separate species from the Dromedary Camel. There are approximately two million domesticated Bactrian camels, but wild Bactrian camels are on the brink of extinction with a total population of about one thousand.

The Bactrian Camel looks heavier than its counterpart, the Dromedary, and indeed it can weigh up to 1800 pounds and grow as tall as seven feet. However, although the Dromedary is lighter, weighing in at about 1300 pounds, it can be as tall as eleven feet. If you look at the photos above, you’ll notice that the Dromedary has longer legs. I met a Dromedary while in Australia—up close and personal. He was very sweet, beautiful eyelashes, and he soared over my head. I watched him drink a bottle of water, just like you’ll see in this video: 

Below is a picture I took in the red center of Australia. They were putting these guys to work, giving rides to tourists like myself, although I didn’t partake. I simply enjoyed watching and photographing them.

Author’s own collection

The Bactrian is a hardy beast; surviving harsh conditions in the Gobi. The two humps, like the one hump of the Dromedary, stores water and fat for those times when resources are minimal.

This video, narrated by David Attenborough, gives us an idea of the conditions under which this animal can survive. 

In the past, the Bactrian camel has been prized for its meat and skin. Hunting, therefore, took a toll on its populations. Today, this camel is seen by farmers as a competitor for grazing land meant for domestic cattle.

People are trying to protect them. “Areas of the Gobi and Gashun Gobi Desert (Lop Nur), where the Bactrian camel remain, are protected by the Great Gobi Reserve in Mongolia, which was established in 1982, and by the newly established national reserve ‘Lop Nur Wild Camel Reserve’ in China.” (IUCN*)

As for the spitting, it’s something camels don't do frequently. They only do so when provoked. And they’re not spitting saliva since they don't have saliva, not as we know it anyway. ‘Spitting’ is just their way of saying ‘stay away.’

Like David Attenborough says in the above video, consider that this is one of the rarest mammals on the planet—less than 1,000 in the wild. We need to think about that and let's hope that everything is being done to ensure the Bactrian Camel survives in the wild.

My thanks to for some of the information and pictures.

For more information on the Bactrian Camel, visit the following sites:

Thank you so much for stopping by. Please visit again next week when we’ll look at another unusual animal.

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Jeanne E. Rogers, Author
The Sword of Demelza, The Gift of Sunderland, and
One Hot Mess, a Child’s Environmental Fable
Award Winning Middle-Grade Fantasy, Where Endangered Animal Heroes Roam the Pages!

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