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Camelus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Camelus bactrianus, Camelus dromedarius
A camel is either of the two species of large even-toed
ungulate in the genus Camelus, the Dromedary (single
hump) and the Bactrian Camel (double hump). Both are
native to the dry and desert areas of Asia and northern
Africa. The average life expectancy of a camel is 30 to 50
years. Humans first domesticated camels approximately
5,000 years ago.
Although there are almost 13 million Dromedaries alive
today, the species is extinct in the wild. There is, however,
a substantial feral population estimated at 700,000 in central parts of Australia, descended from individuals that escaped
from captivity in the late 19th century. This population is growing at approximately 11% per year and in recent times the
state government of South Australia has decided to cull the animals using aerial marksmen, claiming the camels use too
much of the limited resources needed by sheep farmers.
The Bactrian Camel once had an enormous range, but is now reduced to an estimated 1.4 million animals, mostly
domesticated. It is thought that there are about 1000 wild Bactrian Camels in the Gobi Desert, and small numbers in Iran,
Afghanistan, Turkey and Russia.
A small population of introduced camels, Dromedaries and Bactrians, survived in the Southwest United States until the
1900s. These animals, imported from Turkey, were part of the US Camel Corps experiment, used as draft animals in
mines, and escaped or were released after the project fell through.

Bactrian camel have two humps and are rugged cold-climate camels, while Dromedaries have one hump and are desert
dwellers. Dromedary hybrids are called Bukhts. The females can be mated back to a Bactrian to produce -bred riding
camels. These hybrids are found in Kazakhstan. The Cama is a camel/llama hybrid bred by scientists who wanted to see
how closely related the parent species were. The Dromedary Camel is six times the weight of a Llama. Though born even
smaller than a Llama calf, the Cama had the short ears and long tail of a camel, no hump and Llama-like cloven hooves
rather than the Dromedary-like pads. At four years old, the Cama became sexually mature and interested in Llama and
Guanaco females. A second Cama (female) has since been produced using artificial insemination. The Cama apparently
inherited the poor temperament of both parents as well as demonstrating the relatedness of the New World and Old World
Camels are well known for their humps. They do not, however, literally store water in them as is commonly believed,
though they do serve this purpose through roundabout means. Their humps are a reservoir of fatty tissue, while water is
stored in their blood. However, when this tissue is metabolized, it is not only a source of energy, but yields through
reaction with oxygen from the air 1111 g of water per 1000 g of fat. This allows them to survive without water for about two
weeks, and without food for up to a month.
Their red blood cells have an oval shape, unlike those of other mammals, which are circular. This is to facilitate their flow
in a dehydrated state. These cells are also more stable, in order to withstand high osmotic variation without rupturing
when drinking large amounts of water.
Camels are able to withstand changes in body temperature and water content that would kill most other animals. Their
temperature ranges from 93 degrees F at night, up to 106 degrees F at day; only above this threshold they start to sweat.
This allows them to preserve about five liters of water a day. However, they can withstand at least 25% weight loss due to
The thick coat reflects sunlight. A shaved camel has to sweat 50% more to avoid overheating. It also insulates them from
the intense heat that radiates from hot desert sand. Their long legs also help with this by keeping them further away from
the sand.
Their mouth is very sturdy, to be able to eat thorny desert plants. Long eyelashes and ear hairs, together with sealable
nostrils, prevent sand from entering. Their pace (always moving both legs of one side at the same time) and their widened
feet help them move without sinking in.
Camels used for entertainment are often subjected to abuse. Even under the best of circumstances, captivity can be hell
for animals meant to roam free. Kept in small, barren cages, forced to sleep on concrete slabs, and imprisoned behind
iron bars, performing animals often suffer from malnutrition, loneliness, the denial of all normal pleasures and behaviors,
loss of freedom and independence, even lack of veterinary care, and filthy quarters. Attracting customers is the first
consideration and the animals' welfare is often the last. Even when the mere display of the animals themselves is the
"draw," the animals rarely receive proper care--and almost never the socialization and stimulation they crave.
Animals used for entertainment are subjected to rigorous and abusive training methods to force them to perform stressful,
confusing, uncomfortable, and even painful acts; training methods can include beatings, the use of electric prods, food
deprivation, drugging, and surgically removing or impairing teeth and claws. Confined to tiny cages and gawked at by
crowds, animals in exhibits and acts endure constant stress. They may suffer from temperature extremes and irregular
feeding and watering. Without exercise, they become listless, their immune systems are weakened, and they become
prone to sickness; many resort to self-mutilation in reaction to stress or boredom. Mental illness is rampant among
confined animals. Torn from their families and deprived of all dignity, every part of their lives is controlled by their captors.
While zoos and aquariums may appear to be educational and conservation-oriented, most are designed with the needs
and desires of the visitors in mind, not the needs of the animals. Many animals in zoos and aquariums exhibit abnormal
behavior as a result of being deprived of their natural environments and social structures. Some zoos and aquariums do
rescue some animals and work to save endangered species, but most animals in zoos were either captured from the wild
or bred in captivity for the purpose of public display, not species protection. The vast majority of captive-bred animals will
never be returned to the wild. When the facility breeds too many animals they become "surplus" and often are sold to
laboratories, traveling shows, shooting ranches, or to private individuals who may be unqualified to care for them.