Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The wild Bactrian camel is considered by some authorities to be the ancestor of all Bactrian camels (6). Wild Bactrian camels are highly migratory, and herds will travel vast distances in search of food and water sources (4). Herds of up to 100 individuals may gather in the autumn at the beginning of the rutting season, usually in the more mountainous regions where there is a greater availability of water (4). Outside of the mating season, family groups are more common usually consisting of between 6 and 30 animals led by a dominant male (2). Gestation takes between 12 and 14 months and females usually give birth to a single young between March and April (2). Camels feed mainly on shrubs; their humps act at as a rich fat store that allows them to go for long periods without food (5). They are also able to go without water (2), but despite the common misconception this is not stored in the camels' humps. Once water is located, camels are able to drink as much as 57 litres at one time in order to replenish reserves they have lost (2). To conserve water, camels produce dry faeces and little urine and allow their body temperature to fluctuate, therefore reducing the need to sweat (5). In some areas, these camels have developed the remarkable ability of drinking salt-water slush; they are the only mammals capable of this feat (3).
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Description

The two-humped wild Bactrian camel is the ancestor of all domestic camels (3). It is extremely well adapted for the harsh desert climate that it inhabits. Sandstorm damage is reduced by the dense eyelashes and the narrow nostrils that can be closed tightly against the storms (4). The two toes are connected with an undivided sole and are able to spread widely, allowing the camel greater ability to walk on sandy ground (2). They posses the characteristic camel body shape with a long curved neck, long legs and a split upper lip (5), born at the end of the long triangular face (2). The coat of the wild Bactrian camel tends to be lighter than its domestic relative and is a sandier grey-brown colour (4); it becomes thick and shaggy in winter when temperatures can fall to –30 degrees Celsius (4), and is lost in big sections as temperatures increase (2).
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Distribution

Range Description

The Bactrian Camel is restricted to four subpopulations in China and Mongolia: Gashun Gobi, Gansu, China; Taklamakan Desert, Xinjiang, China (this population has declined and may now be extinct); the northern slopes of Arjin Shan mountains and adjacent areas in Lop Nur Wild Camel National Reserve, China; and the Great Gobi Section A Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, and adjacent areas in China (Reading et al. 1999, Mix et al. 2002, Wang et al. 2002). In Mongolia, the species is found in the Trans Altai Govi Desert (Mix et al. 2002), including the foothills of the Edren Range to Shiveet Ulaan, and the Hükh Tömörtei Range to the state border (Mix et al. 2002, Adiya et al. 2004, Adiya and Dovchindorj 2005).

A domestic form, considered under a separate species name (Camelus bactrianus), exists in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and China (Grubb 2005).

The range of the wild Bactrian camel in historic times extended from about the great bend of the Yellow River, across the deserts of southern Mongolia and northwestern China to central Kazakhstan. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the species had been extirpated from the western part of its range, and persisted only in remote areas of the Gobi and Taklimakan Deserts. These populations have become increasingly fragmented over the past 150 years (Schaller 1998).
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Range

Wild Bactrian camels were previously found across the deserts of southern Mongolia and northwestern China, into Kazakhstan (4). Years of persecution have reduced the species to fragmented populations, three in northwest China and one in Mongolia (1). The largest population is currently found in the Gashun Gobi Desert (Lop Nur) in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (1).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species is found in the Gobi and Gashun Gobi deserts of northwest China and Mongolia. While vegetation is sparse, the desert itself varies from rocky mountain massifs, to the flat pavement-like areas of the extremely arid desert; stony "gobi" desert plains; poplar fringed oases; vast washed-out plains and high sand dunes. In some areas, in the absence of fresh water, it has adapted to drinking salt water slush which the domestic camel will not touch.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Found in the arid and sparsely vegetated Gobi and Gashun Gobi Deserts where habitat ranges from rocky mountainous regions to plains and high sand dunes (1).
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
CR
Critically Endangered

Red List Criteria
A3de+4ade

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Hare, J.

Reviewer/s
Stuart, S.N. (Global Mammal Assessment Team) & Hare, J. (Wild Camel Protection Foundation)

Contributor/s

Justification
This species is assessed as Critically Endangered. The Wild Bactrian Camel is facing a population size reduction of at least 80% within the next three generations (estimated at 45 to 50 years). This projection is based on observations made during five expeditions (1993 - Mongolian Gobi and 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999 - Chinese Gobi). The population is the target of continued hunting (mainly persecution because the camels compete with domestic camels and livestock for water and grazing, but also sport hunting). Mining, both legal and illegal, and the proposed construction of a gas pipeline and the associated industrial development, as well as a proposed kaolin mine, would also have an impact on the main Chinese subpopulation of Wild Bactrian Camel. The effects of hybridization with domestic camels both in Mongolia and China and increased human competition and economic pressures within the designated habitat of the wild Bactrian camel, have also prompted this listing. The Mongolian subpopulation is known to have declined by 46% since 1985. However, due to increased hunting and wolf predation it is now expected that 25-30 animals will be lost annually from this subpopulation (a substantial increase in the mortality rate). Based on these observations and assuming that the trends will continue into the future, it is estimated that there will be at least an 84% reduction in the population size by the year 2033 (approximately three generations from 1985). Given the increasing threats to the Chinese subpopulations (where at least 20 animals are killed annually) there is no reason to expect the situation for these subpopulations to be any different.

History
  • 2007
    Critically Endangered
  • 2002
    Critically Endangered
  • 1996
    Endangered
    (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
  • 1996
    Endangered
  • 1996
    Endangered
  • 1994
    Vulnerable
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Vulnerable
    (IUCN 1990)
  • 1988
    Vulnerable
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
  • 1986
    Vulnerable
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
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Status

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).
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Population

Population
In the year 2004, there were approximately 600 individuals surviving in China and 350 in Mongolia, with numbers continuing to decrease (J. Hare pers. comm.). In 1985 the Mongolian subpopulation numbered 650 animals.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
It is estimated from information received from the Protected Area staff and Mongolian scientists working in the 'Great Gobi Reserve A' that in Mongolia, 25 to 30 Wild Bactrian Camels are being killed annually when they migrate across the international border into China on the southernmost boundary of the protected area 'Great Gobi Reserve A'. The hunting is mainly for local subsistence use.

Due to the reduction in water points (oases) because of drought, wolves have increased their predation of Wild Bactrian Camels. This activity is concentrated at the remaining water points in the area. The remaining habitat in Mongolia is also being degraded by domestic livestock.

In China in the new Arjin Shan Lop Nur Nature Sanctuary, up to 20 Wild Bactrian Camels are killed annually by miners and hunters for subsistence use. Economic pressure to use the areas adjoining the Nature Reserve as grazing for domestic Bactrian camels has increased hybridisation on the southern border and this poses a significant threat to the unique genetic strain of the Wild Bactrian Camel which current scientific DNA research suggests is a separate species.

For 45 years, this area of the Gashun Gobi was the nuclear test site area of China. In spite of this, the Wild Bactrian Camel survived and is apparently breeding naturally. Since the cessation of nuclear tests in China, the Wild Bactrian Camel now faces new threats including highly toxic illegal mining and hunting for food and sport. Parts of the Wild Bactrian Camel's designated habitat are likely to be designated for industrial use (gas pipe line laying, exploitation of minerals). Domestic Bactrian camels and goats have also been introduced to the designated areas and hence compete for grazing and water.
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Wild Bactrian camels have been heavily hunted for their meat and hide over the centuries (4), and today only a few highly fragmented populations persist (1). These camels continue to be persecuted mainly as they are seen as competition with domestic livestock for the precious water and grazing of the desert (1). Bactrian camels persisted in China even though the Gashun Gobi desert (Lop Nur) was used as a nuclear test site for 45 years (3), today further habitat loss has occurred with the development of a gas pipe-line in the north of the reserve (1) and highly toxic illegal mining (3). Competition with domestic camels and livestock as well as hybridisation with domestic camels poses a further threat to the survival of the unique Bactrian camel (1). The total population is predicted to undergo an 80% reduction over the next three generations, prompting the species to be listed as Critically Endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) (1).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
The 'Great Gobi Reserve A' was established in Mongolia in 1982 and in 2000, the 'Arjin Shan Lop Nur Nature Reserve' was established in China. Although the first phase of Nature Reserve construction is now complete, much more work, including the opening of a second Nature Reserve in China is needed.

The establishment of a captive Wild Bactrian Camel breeding programme in Mongolia has been established by the Wild Camel Protection Foundation. This is an urgent conservation priority. Only fifteen wild Bactrian camels are currently in captivity in China and Mongolia. With so few captive animals, the whole species could be wiped out if their natural habitats in China and Mongolia are destroyed. It is therefore important to breed enough animals in captivity to insure against this possible disaster. As each female camel can have young at most once every two years, relying on natural methods would permit the numbers to rise only very slowly.
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Conservation

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 (1) (6). Both governments have agreed to protect this trans-boundary migrating species in an historic move (3). A captive breeding programme based in Mongolia and run by the Wild Camel Protection Foundation is due to begin in 2003 in an effort to safeguard the future of this fascinating animal (3). Recent studies of dromedary camels (Camelus dromedarius) have revealed an extraordinary immune system and it has been found that camel milk arrests diabetes in humans and has proved to be a substitute for insulin (6).
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Wikipedia

Wild Bactrian camel

The wild Bactrian camel (Camelus ferus) is called havtagai ("flat") in Mongolian. It is closely related to the domesticated Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus): they are both large, even-toed ungulates native to the steppes of central Asia, with double hump (small and pyramid-shaped).[1] Most modern experts tend to describe it as a separate species from the domesticated Bactrian camel.[2] It is restricted in the wild to remote regions of the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts of Mongolia and Xinjiang. A few wild Bactrians still roam the Mangystau Province of southwest Kazakhstan and the Kashmir valley in India. They are also found along rivers in Siberia: they migrate there in winter.[3] Their habitat is in arid plains and hills where water sources are scarce and there is very little vegetation; shrubs are their food source.[1]

Differences between Camelus ferus and Camelus bactrianus[edit]

Until recently the Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) was considered to be a domesticated form of the wild Bactrian camel. Modern experts describe it a separate species due to the fact that the Wild Bactrian camel has 3 more chromosome pairs than the domesticated Bactrian camel.[2]

The wild Bactrian camel has been described as "relatively small, lithe, and slender-legged, with very narrow feet and a body that looks laterally compressed."[4]

"Zoological opinion nowadays tends to favour the idea that C. bactrianus and dromedarius are descendants of two different sub-species of C. ferus (Peters and von den Driesch 1997: 652) and there is no evidence to suggest that the original range of C. ferus included those parts of Central Asia and Iran where some of the earliest Bactrian remains have been found."[4]

"The wool of C. ferus is "shorter and sparser than that of domestic animals" (Schaller 1998: 152) and its colour is always sandy (Bannikov 1976: 398). And most notably, C. ferus has "low, pointed, cone-shaped humps—usually about half the size of those of the domestic camel in fair condition” (Bannikov 1976: 398)."[5]

Like its close relative, the domesticated Bactrian camel, it is one of the few mammals able to eat snow to provide itself with liquids in the winter.[6] It can also survive on water even saltier than seawater – which no other large mammal in the world, including the domestic Bactrian camel, can tolerate.[7]

"The wild Bactrian camel differs from the domestic Bactrian in a number of ways – smaller, more conical humps, flatter skull (havtagai, the Mongolian name for a wild Bactrian camel, means 'flat-head'), a different shape of foot – but the outstanding difference is genetic. Its DNA varies from that of the domestic Bactrian by 3 per cent. Our genetic variation from a chimpanzee is 5 per cent."[8]

Habitat[edit]

Their habitat is in arid plains and hills where water sources are scarce and there is very little vegetation: shrubs are their food source.[1]

Wild camels travel over long distances, seeking water in places close to mountains where springs are found, and hill slopes covered in snow could provide some moisture in winter. Size of the herds varies from 100 camels close hills[clarification needed] but generally of 2-15 members in a group; this is reported to be due to arid environment and heavy poaching. As against about 2.5 million domestic Bactrian camels reported in Central Asia, the statistics for the wild Bactrian are limited to three pockets in Mongolia and China;[1] about 650 in the Gobi desert in north-west China and 450 in the Mongolian desert[9]

In ancient times, wild Bactrian camels were seen from the great bend of the Yellow River extending west to the Southern Mongolia deserts and further to Northwest China and central Kazakhstan. In the 1800s, due to hunting for its meat and hide, its presence was noted in remote areas of the Gobi and Taklimakan Deserts in Mongolia and China. In the 1920s, only remnant populations were recorded in Mongolia and China.[1]

Description[edit]

The habitats of the Bactrian camel have widely varying temperatures: the summer temperature ranges from 60-70 deg C[citation needed] (140 – 160 deg F) and winter temperature a low of -30 deg C (-22 deg F). Their long, narrow slit-like nostrils and thick eyelashes (double row of long eyelashes), and the ears with hairs) provide protection against desert sandstorms. They have tough undivided soles with two large toes that spread wide apart, and a horny layer which enables them to walk on rough and hot stony or sandy terrain. Their body hair, thick and shaggy, changes colour of[clarification needed] light brown or beige colour during winter.[1][10] The legend that camels storing water in their stomachs is a misconception: though they have capacity to conserve water they cannot survive without water for long periods.[1]

They are fully migratory and widely scattered, and move in groups of 6 to 20, depending on the food available, with a single adult male in the lead, and assemble near water points where larger groups can also be seen. Their population density is reported to be as low as 5 per 100 km2. Their lifespan is about 40 years and they breed during winter with an overlap into the rainy season. Females produce offspring starting at age 5, and thereafter in a cycle of 2 years.[10]

Status[edit]

The wild Bactrian camel is more critically endangered than the Giant Panda. John Hare in his 2009 book estimated that there were only about 900 of them left in the world.[7] The London Zoological Society recognizes it as the eighth most endangered large mammal in the world,[8] and it is on the Critically Endangered List. Observations made during five field expeditions starting in 1993 by John Hare and the United Kingdom-based Wild Camel Protection Foundation (WCPF) suggest that the surviving populations may be facing an 80% decline within the next three generations. The animal can survive by drinking a saltwater slush that is unpalatable to domestic camel species. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) its status was critical in the 1960s and gradually declined to Critically Endangered (Criteria: A3de + 4ade) status in 2000-2004 (IUCN 2004).[1] Research carried out by the WCPF in association with John Hare from 1993 onwards indicated that this species of camel could suffer an 80% reduction in numbers in the next 30 years.[11]

Threats[edit]

Wild Bactrians face many threats. The main threat is hunting: in the Gobi Reserve Area, 25 to 30 camels are reported to be poached for domestic use[clarification needed] every year, and about 20 in the Arjin Shan Lop Nur Nature Sanctuary. Other threats include land mines laid in the salt water springs,[3] scarcity of access to water (oases), attack by wolves, migration into domestic areas in search of grazing land, hybridization with domestic Bactrians (resulting in loss of their genetic distinctiveness), toxic effluent releases from illegal mining, redesignation of wildlife areas as industrial zones, and sharing grazing areas with domestic animals.[12]

Conservation[edit]

Several actions have been initiated by the Governments of China and Mongolia to conserve this species of mammal such as the ecosystem-based management programme; two programmes instituted in this respect are the Great Gobi Reserve A (funded by UNEP & Global Environment Facility of the order of $1,650,000 in 1979[3]) in Mongolia set up in 1982, and the Arjin Shan Lop Nur Nature Reserve (funded by UNEP and Global Environment Facility to the extent of $750,000[3]), on the border of Kum Tagh sand dunes in the Tibetan mountains reserve, established in China in 2000.[10] The Wild Camel Protection Foundation, the only such charity of its kind, has as its main goal conservation of the wild Bactrian in its natural desert environment to ensure that they do not get listed in the extinct category of IUCN.[3][9] The actions taken by the various organizations, motivated and supported by IUCN and WCPF are: Establishment of more nature reserves (in China and Mongolia) for their conservation, and breeding them in captivity, 15 animals in captivity, (as females can give two litters every two years which may not happen when they are in the wild) to prevent extinction.[12] The captive breeding initiated by WCPF in 2003 is the Zakhyn-Us Sanctuary in Mongolia, where the initial programme of breeding last non-hybridised herds of Bactrian camels has proved a success with the birth of several calves.[10]

The wild Bactrian camel is also being considered for introduction at Pleistocene Park in Northern Siberia as a proxy for extinct Pleistocene camel species.[13][14] If this proves feasible, it would increase their geographic range considerably, adding a safety margin to their survival.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Animal Info - Endangered Animals: Camelus bactrianus (Camelus bactrianus ferus)". Animal Information Organization. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  2. ^ a b See, for example: Hare (2008) and Potts (2004)
  3. ^ a b c d e "New' camel lives on salty water". BBC Nature. 6 February 2001. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Potts (2004), p. 145.
  5. ^ Potts (2004), p. 146.
  6. ^ Video showing wild Bactrian camels eating snow.
  7. ^ a b Hare (2009), pp. 6, 28.
  8. ^ a b Hare (2009), p. 197.
  9. ^ a b "Help Us". Wild Camel Protection Foundation. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c d "13. Bactrian Camel (Camelus ferus)". Evolutionarily Distinct & Globally Endangered. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  11. ^ "Wild Bactrian Camels Critically Endangered, Group Says". National geographic Service News. 3 December 2002. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  12. ^ a b Hare (2008).
  13. ^ Martin W. Lewis (12 April 2012). "Pleistocene Park: The Regeneration of the Mammoth Steppe?". GeoCurrents. Retrieved 2 May 2013. 
  14. ^ Lidia Kruglova (2 May 2011). "Pleistocene Park: so far without mammoths". Voice of Russia. Article also to be found in www.pleistocenepark.ru/en/ – Media about us. Retrieved 5 May 2013. 

References[edit]

  • Bulliet, Richard W. (1975). The Camel and the Wheel. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 
  • Hare, J (2008). "Camelus ferus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. IUCN. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  • Hare, John (2009). Mysteries of the Gobi: Searching for Wild Camels and Lost Cities in the Heart of Asia. I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84511-512-8. 
  • Potts, D. T. (2004). "Camel Hybridization and the Role of Camelus Bactrianus in the Ancient Near East.". Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 47: 143–165. 
  • "Bactrian camel". Saving the World's Most Extraordinary Species. EDGE of Existence. 
  • "Discovery of camels in the Gashun Gobi region". BBC. 
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