• 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.
  • 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.

More Focal Mammal species

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Associated Blog Posts
6th Sep 15
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1st Mar 13
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27th Mar 12
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22nd Dec 09
From the 18th to the 30th of November 2009, Adiya (Bactrian Camel EDGE Fellow) and Henry (Steppe Forward Programme Co-ordinator) participated in the Mongolia...  Read

2nd Jul 09
Yuan Lei is an EDGE Fellow working on one of the few remaining wild Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) populations in China. In May he organized a survey ex...  Read

18th May 09
Yuan Lei, one of two EDGE Fellows working on the wild Bactrian camel, tells us here about the environment he encountered during an observation trip in the ba...  Read

23rd Jan 09
News just in from John Hare of the Wild Camel Protection Foundation that hay has been delivered to the captive breeding centre at Zakhyn-Us – just! John...  Read

12th Jan 09
We have just received the following appeal from John Hare at the Wild Camel Protection Foundation, with whom we work for the conservation of the Bactrian cam...  Read

4th Dec 08
Yuan Lei, the EDGE Fellow we support to study the Critically Endangered Bactrian camel in China, has been carrying out his usual monitoring surveys in rece...  Read

24th Jun 08
Earlier this year our Mongolian EDGE Fellow working on the Bactrian camel, Adiya, and John Hare from the Wild Camel Protection Foundation (WCPF) visited the ...  Read

24th May 08
Adiya is our Mongolian EDGE Fellow studying the wild Bactrian camel. From the 19th to 28th April this year he went on an expedition to Zahyi Us and Great Gob...  Read

8th May 08
Yuanlei, our Chinese EDGE Fellow, recently sent us this update of his work on the Critically Endangered Bactrian camel, just before he headed out into the fi...  Read

7th Mar 08
Yuan Lei our Chinese EDGE Fellow has sent us some information on wild Bactrian camel folklore and how camels have played a major role in peoples lives over m...  Read

26th Feb 08
Here is Part 2 of our Mongolian EDGE Fellow-Adiya's survey of the Great Gobi protected area and buffer zone. (Click here if you haven't already read Par...  Read

20th Feb 08
Adiya Yadamsuren, our Mongolian Bactrian camel EDGE Fellow has just completed his surveys in the Buffer Zone of the Great Gobi Protected Area A in Mongolia....  Read

7th Feb 08
Yuan Lei, our Chinese Bactrian camel EDGE Fellow, recently sent us the post mortem results following the death of the wild camel he and his team from the X...  Read

28th Jan 08
Our Mongolian EDGE Fellow Adiya has just sent us a blog on the project he has been working on in collaboration with researchers from the Denver Zoo and The...  Read

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
Last month, Yuan Lei’s preparations for his Bactrian camel research were briefly interrupted as he was invited to the Gansu Anxi Extremely Arid Desert Rese...  Read

11th Sep 07
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6th Aug 07
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20th Jul 07
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6th Jul 07
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27th Jun 07
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19th Jun 07
Lop Nur is is a group of small, seasonal salt lakes and marshes between the Taklamakan and Kuruktag deserts in the southeastern portion of Xinjiang Uighur Au...  Read

16th May 07
The EDGE team is delighted to announce that we have now raised sufficient funds for a second EDGE Fellow, Adya Yadamsuren. Adya would like to express his w...  Read

26th Apr 07
Founded by the Wild Camel Protection Foundation The only captive wild Bactrian camel breeding centre in the world. In 2003, the Wild Camel Protection Fou...  Read

6th Apr 07
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