Facts
  • Occurs only as a few fragmented populations in northwest China and southwest Mongolia.
  • The two-humped Bactrian camel is superbly adapted to life in the harsh Gobi Desert, where 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.
  • Individuals eat thorns, dry vegetation and salty plants, which other herbivores avoid. Excess fat is stored in the humps and used as a reserve when food is scarce.
  • Camels to go for several days at a time without eating or drinking. Upon finding water they will drink vast quantities rapidly to replace what is missing from their bodies - they can take in as much as 57 litres of water to restore the normal amount of body fluid.
  • Wild Bactrian camels are the only land mammals capable of drinking brackish or salty water with no ill effects.
  • The largest population of Bactrian camels 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.
  • Camels and their relatives (llamas, vicuñas, alpacas, guanacos) differ from all other mammals in the shape of their red blood cells, which are oval instead of circular.
Threats
  • Habitat loss due to mining and industrial development, has forced camels 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 hybridisation will lead to the loss of the genetically distinct wild camel.
  • Poisoning from potassium cyanide (a by-product from illegal gold mining).
  • Climate change and the drying of water sources.
Conservation Required
  • Community surveys to determine the effects of dominant threat processes.
  • Survey numbers and health of wild camels in the two Protected Areas.
  • Implement monitoring programme to find out more information on wild camel ecology, behaviour and population trends.
  • Development of a comprehensive Conservation Action Plan detailing actions needed to save the species.


Proposed Actions

EDGE aims to help secure the future of the Critically Endangered Bactrian camel by collecting information on how camels and humans interact in their fragile desert habitat. This information will be used to develop a conservation strategy for the wild camels.

The wild Bactrian camel is probably the ancestor of all domestic two-humped camels. It is superbly adapted to life in the harsh Gobi Desert, one of the most hostile and fragile regions on earth. The species can withstand drought, food shortages and even radiation from nuclear weapons testing. Less than 1,000 individuals survive today in only four locations. Classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, the species continues to be threatened by hunting, habitat loss and competition for resources with introduced livestock.

The EDGE team is currently working with the Wild Camel Protection Foundation and two EDGE Fellows to collect information on the relative impacts of habitat loss, hunting, hybridisation with domestic camels, poisoning and drought on wild Bactrian camels in Lop Nur National Nature Reserve, China, and Great Gobi Special Protected Area A in Mongolia. The information collected will be used to develop a long-term conservation strategy that will provide benefits to both the wild camels and the human inhabitants of the hash desert ecosystem.

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Associated Blog Posts
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22nd Dec 09
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2nd Jul 09
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18th May 09
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23rd Jan 09
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12th Jan 09
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4th Dec 08
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24th Jun 08
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24th May 08
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8th May 08
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7th Mar 08
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26th Feb 08
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20th Feb 08
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7th Feb 08
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28th Jan 08
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28th Dec 07
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9th Nov 07
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8th Nov 07
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30th Oct 07
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24th Sep 07
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11th Sep 07
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6th Aug 07
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20th Jul 07
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19th Jun 07
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16th May 07
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26th Apr 07
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6th Apr 07
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