The Welsh Mountain Zoo has excitedly revealed details of their latest arrival, a female Bactrian Camel, named Willow.
At a little over five-weeks-old, the double-hump-backed baby is said to be fit and well, cautiously exploring her new surroundings under the watchful eye of parents, Clara and Ghengis.
The Zoo has a 15-year history with this breed of rare Camels, and the arrival of Willow marks the fourth baby to be born there.
Jamie Toffrey, Marketing Officer at the Welsh Mountain said, “Willow is a real delight and she is very much out and about, fitting in comfortably in her new home.”
There are now three Bactrian Camels in total at the Zoo. The breed is endangered, with only 1,000, or less, of their relatives remaining in the wild.
The Welsh Mountain Zoo is part of a carefully controlled international captive species breeding programme, and they welcomed the first Bactrian Camel ever to be born in Wales, some 10 years ago. Jamie added, “We’re incredibly proud of our successful breeding programme and the role we are playing raising awareness of the species.”
The Bactrian Camel (Camelus bactrianus) is a large, even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of Central Asia. It has two humps on its back, in contrast to the single-humped dromedary camel. The Bactrian Camel’s population of two million exists mainly in the domesticated form. Some authorities, notably the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), use the binomial name ‘Camelus ferus’ for the wild Bactrian Camel and reserve ‘Camelus bactrianus’ for the domesticated Bactrian. Their name comes from the ancient historical region of Bactria.
The mating season occurs in the fall. Males are often quite violent and may bite, spit, or attempt to sit on other male camels. The age of sexual maturity varies, but is usually reached at 3 to 5 years. Gestation lasts around 13 months, with most young being born from March through April. One or, occasionally, two calves are produced, and the female can give birth to a new calf every other year.
Young Bactrian Camels are precocial, being able to stand and run shortly after birth, and are fairly large at an average birth weight of 36 kg (79 lb). They are nursed for about 1.5 years. The young calf stays with its mother for three to five years, until it reaches sexual maturity, and often serves to help raise subsequent generations for those years.
The domesticated Bactrian Camel has served as a pack animal in inner Asia since ancient times. With its tolerance for cold, drought, and high altitudes, it enabled the travel of caravans on the Silk Road. Its range in the wild is restricted to remote regions of the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts of Mongolia and China. A small number of wild Bactrian Camels still roam the Mangystau Province of southwest Kazakhstan and the Kashmir Valley in India. Feral herds of Bactrians are found in Australia.
The wild form has dwindled to a population estimated at 800 in October 2002 and has been classified as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The immediate threats faced by the species are all human related. Habitat loss has been high due to development for mining and industrial complexes. Due to increasing human populations, wild Camels are forced to share food and water sources with introduced domestic stock, thus are sometimes shot by farmers. Included in this stock are domesticated Bactrians, which freely mate with wild individuals. This has led to a concern of a loss of genetically distinct wild Bactrian Camels.