Wild Times Archive

Bactrian Camel

Bactrian camels are famous for having two humps instead of one. Contrary to popular belief, these humps don’t store water. Instead, the humps store fat, which the camel’s body can use for energy and water when food is scarce. The humps allow camels to endure legendary periods of time without food or water. In fact, a camel can go a week or more without water and can last for several months without food.

Camels are adapted for a life of extremes. In addition to a long, shaggy coat that protects them in winter and sheds in summer, camels rarely sweat which helps them conserve fluids over a long period of time. Their nostrils close to keep sand out while bushy eyebrows and two rows of long eyelashes protect their eyes. Camels have flat foot pads with undivided soles that can spread widely to walk on rocky terrain and desert sands.

The Edmonton Valley Zoo is home to three Bactrian camels: a six-year-old male named Genghis, and two females – three-year-old Marshmallow and four-year-old Dolly.

The Bactrian camel is the largest living camel at 3.2 – 3.5 metres long (10 – 11.5 feet); 1.6 – 1.8 metres tall at the shoulder (5.2 – 5.9 feet), and weighing 450 – 500 kg (990 – 1,100 lbs).

They are found in the Gobi desert in China and Mongolia. They are well-suited for the rocky landscape with wildly shifting weather patterns. It can be searingly hot in the summer and bitterly cold in the winter.

Bactrian camels are herbivores. They can – and will – eat most any type of vegetation, including dry, thorny, or bitter plants.

These animals are highly social and live in herds of 6-30 individuals with a dominant adult male. They are good swimmers and are most active in the daytime when they’re looking for food. At night they sleep in open spaces. They make many sounds, including moaning and groaning, roars, bellows, and high-pitched bleats.

Gestation is 12-14 months, producing one calf; sometimes two in rare cases. Females reach maturity at age 3 while males reach maturity between ages 5-7.

Up to 50 years in captivity.


Bactrian camels are critically endangered with fewer than 1,000 mature adults in the wild. They are hunted for sport and are killed because they compete with livestock for food and water. They are also at risk due to habitat loss, mainly by illegal mining operations.

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