Camels are incredible creatures with a whole arsenal of traits totally unique amongst mammals. Two species exist today belonging to the genus Camelus, these are the Dromedary and Bactrian camels. Closely related to these true camels are the four South American camelids: the llama, alpaca, guanaco, and vicuña.
The dromedary camel is native to the Middle East and the horn of Africa and is completely domesticated as a species.
The Bactrian camel is native to Central Asia and is also a domesticated species. In the Gobi desert, however, there are a few tiny populations totalling less than 1,000 Bactrian camels that remain truly wild. Scientists compared their DNA with domesticated individuals and the results were remarkable. Two or three distinct genetic differences and a 3% base difference proved that the wild Bactrian camels of the Gobi are the only herds which are completely isolated from domestic camels.
The wild Bactrian camel is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN, due to a predicted 80% population decline over the next three generations. Threats include deliberate persecution due to competition with domesticate livestock, habitat loss due to mining activity and hybridization with domestic animals.
The Wild Camel Protection Foundation works to protect the last wild camels of the Gobi desert. Take a look…
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