Friday, December 9, 2011


Camels have been coined the Ships of the Desert, and for good reason. Domesticated more than 3000 yrs ago, humans even rely upon them to this day to transport them across arid/desert environments in Africa and Asia. They can easily carry up to 200 lbs and travel up to 20 miles/day! Wow! They are as fast as a horse, but can go for extended periods of time without any food or water. This makes them well equipped to live in the desert.

They are well adapted to the desert landscape as their feet are round and broad, working somewhat like a snowshoe would in the snow, so that they don't sink into the sand. For humans, sand blown into our eyes can be annoying and painful, as well as unhealthy for the eyes. However, camels have a special membrane over their eyes to protect them from the sand called a nictitating membrane, which works as a clear inner eyelid, letting enough light in for them to see, along with a double row of eyelashes. They are also able to close their nostrils to keep the sand out of their nose.
Camels live in Africa, Asia, and as feral animals in Australia, which were imported in the 19th century. Some of these camels, who live in environments where it gets cold in the winter, grow thick, shaggy coats, and shed them in the hot summer months.
Camel Classification: 
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
ferus (wild Bactrian, or two-humped)
ferus f. bactrianus (domestic Bactrian)
dromedarius (dromedary, or one-humped)
About 90% of the camels today are dromedaries, which have only 1 hump, and only exists today as a domesticated species. There are 2 types of Bactrian camels, both of which have 2 humps: one of which is wild, and one of which is domesticated. Wild Bactrians are more athletic-looking, have smaller humps and less hair.
* Myth: Camels store water in their hump. This is completely FALSE! In fact, camels store fat in their humps, which is used as an energy store in conditions where food is scarce. Camels can go 1 wk or more without water, and several months without food. This hump, well, gets them over the "hump". How long they can survive depends upon how hot the climate is and their activity level. You can tell a camel that has not eaten, by if his hump leans over to 1 side. This means that he has been delving into his fat stores.
* Myth: Camels spit at you. FALSE! They don't actually spit on you, they throw up and spew it at you. This is to scare off or intimidate whatever is threatening them. YUK!
In some places in the world, people use many camel products: milk, meat, wool, leather, and even their dung for fuel (I don't know if I could do that one!).
My Story: When I lived in Australia in 1994-95, I had the opportunity of riding a camel in Broome, Western Australia at sunset down Cable Beach...Amazing. I got to visit a camel farm near Perth, Western Australia, which was so much fun, and I made a bunch of camel-friends. I even ate camel sausage in Kakadu National Park (Darwin, Northern Territory)...No, it didn't taste like chicken. It tasted similar to venison and was very gamy.
Conservation: Wild Bactrian camels are considered critically at risk. Camels live to be about 50 yrs old, and only have 1 (rarely 2) young at a time. They carry their young for 12-14 months. As I mentioned earlier, 90% of the world's camels are dromedaries, and they no longer exist in the wild. The rest are the domesticated Bactrian, and the wild Bactrian.
Please, donate locally, online, or just spread the word about these strange and wonderful creatures.
by Kimberly Edwards
Kimberly Edwards is the founder of - Keeping Up The Fight To Preserve The Planet's Wildlife. Find awesome information about animals from all over the world, exotic animal news, updates on conservation, and anything else "Animal". For all of you who are exotic animal lovers, you know who you are...Check out:


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