We (Marshmallow and Dolly) were born and raised on a farm in central Alberta. In the wild, Bactrian camels live in herds in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and China. You may think Alberta is poorly suited for our species, but quite the contrary. Gobi Desert winters can reach -40°C with winds, and summers can soar to 45°C. Edmonton’s extreme weather is cake walk for us Bactrian camels. We live here at the Edmonton Valley Zoo with our buddy, Ghengis.
Marshmallow: Let me start off by saying it is true that camels have a teeny weeny reputation for kicking, spitting, and biting. And yes, we have been known to roll our eyes and grunt in protest when something or someone displeases us. Oh, and we like to pass gas and burp. Flatulence and belching are very good for the system, we highly recommend you try it.
Dolly: We are intelligent, emotional beings who bond closely to humans who treat us with care and respect. We carry ourselves with an air of regal dignity, our willowy long necks surveying the landscape and looking unintentionally down on those below us…..with the exception of Marshmallow, who is an imperious and mischievous minx. Trevor, one of our adorable keepers, calls me sweet, calm, easy to handle, and predictable. He nicknamed me Dolly Parton, love that boy! I am four years old and more mature and wiser than three-year-old Marshmallow, who can be a little high strung and stand-offish. I try to keep her in line and ignore the occasional kick she throws my way when I’m eating and her ear-splitting high-pitched bleats. My attitude is: Whatever girl, bring it on!
Marshmallow: Oh brother, here we go… sure, I’m a little feisty. I overheard Wade say that I am anything but mellow, he said I like to push his buttons. I smiled with satisfaction – mission accomplished! Being a little less eager with the keepers has its benefits. It’s most entertaining to watch them use their ingenuity to solve a problem. For example, I like to play hard to get when it comes to haltering. This little game of tag usually ends with treats. They’ve figured out that I can be bought with carrots. Now, who is the ingenious one?
Dolly: I just love being a blonde. Marilyn Monroe was right, blondes do have more fun! Bactrians have bushy brows and double row of eyelashes. I can bat my luscious lashes while protecting my eyes from blowing sand and ice. Did you know that we have THREE eyelids? The nictitating membrane helps keep out dust and sand. I’ve overheard the clump of curls on top of my head referred to as a “birds nest.” I prefer to think of it as my version of a royal fascinator!
Marshmallow: Yadda yadda about blondes, I just love my long, shaggy brown coat. We have two layers, guard hairs and undercoat, to keep us toasty warm when temperatures plunge. Come spring, we shed our hair. Some visitors remark that we look unkempt and untidy. Well, phooey to that! Nothing wrong with looking a bit on the wild side, shabby chic is in!
Dolly: Our split upper lip is an adorable feature which allows us to get very close to the ground to eat short grass. We can move each lip separately which is an excellent party trick!
Marshmallow: Get your facts right, people! Our two humps are filled with FAT not WATER. That would make a very irritating slushing sound when we walk. Our fat stores allow us to go many days without food or water. Very handy in the desert.
Dolly: Another thing that really irks us is when people think our extra hump is genetic flaw! One hump camels are the Arabian or dromedary camels variety; us Bactrians have two. Here’s a simple way to tell the difference between us – tilt your head to the side and if the humps spell ‘B’ you are looking at a Bactrian. If they spell ‘D’ that’s a dromedary. You’re welcome!
Marshmallow: A guest once asked if we wear horseshoes. We laughed and laughed till our humps jiggled. No, we do not have hooves and we are not shod, that’s for horses. Yes, we can run as fast and far as horses, and we do carry humans around on our backs sometimes, but we are even-toed ungulates – each foot has two toes on an undivided sole. Our feet are tough and sturdy for sure-footed walking through sand or snow.
Dolly: Both of us ladies enjoy being walked with a halter and lead rope, it is a great socialization exercise. We look forward to sashaying around the zoo grounds and meeting you all one day. Marshmallow is still going through a tug-of-war stage with her keepers, she stops and they tug. We enjoy having our legs touched, it helps build trust with our keepers and allows them to check our appendages. We’re also learning to lift our feet so our soles and toes can be visually checked. All of our training is done through positive reinforcement.
Marshmallow: All camels are herbivores. We enjoy grassy hay and herb pellets, and browse weeds, grass, leaves, and branches. We LOVE carrots, too (without the green stems, please). Our keepers are very creative when it comes to enrichments, they hang our food in feeders and hide treats in boxes and horse balls.
Dolly: Marsh and I like to run, jump, buck and kick balls around the yard.