Camels are best known for the distinctive “humps” on their back. Of the three species that survive today, the Dromedary is distinguished by having one hump, while the other two species have two. Dromedary and Bactrian camels have been domesticated to provide milk, hair for textiles and for transport and are common throughout Asia and Africa. Although they appear similar, the wild Mongolian camel (Camelusl ferus) is a distinct species from its domestic relative, the Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus). The Mongolian camel is critically endangered; there are approximately 600 in the Gobi desert in north-west China and 450 in the desert in Mongolia. A captive Mongolian camel breeding programme in Mongolia has been established. This is an urgent conservation priority. Only fifteen Mongolian 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.
African Lion Safari has an active breeding program for domestic Bactrian camels through which we are improving our understanding of the camel reproductive physiology and behaviour. The viability of many endangered species in the wild depends on our ability to sustain a population in human care until threats are resolved. Poor reproductive efficiency can be a problem with Bactrian camels held in human care. We have made significant strides, including the birth of several healthy calves but there is still much that remains unknown about the complex factors that contribute to successful breeding.
Our objective is to develop a breeding strategy for the Bactrian camel that will lead to the maintenance of a healthy growing herd of their Mongolian camels. Towards this end, we continue to monitor pregnancy in our camels through fecal analysis and ultrasound examination, and are researching the use of hormonal support, induction of ovulation and hormonal support of pregnancies as well as nutritional considerations and how genetics influence embryonic development. Our aim is to transfer what we have learned in the conservation and propagation of our Bactrian camels to assist in insuring the continued survival of the Wild Mongolian Camel through the success of their captive breeding program.