The “stork” made another special delivery to the Lee Richardson Zoo Thursday with the birth of a female Bactrian camel. The silvery-grey calf was born about 8 AM, and was soon on its feet and searching for its first meal from mom. Described as strong and feisty by keeper Sara Niemczyk, the baby stands 4 ½ to 5 feet tall, and weighed in at 121 pounds. This is the eighth calf for the sixteen-year old mother Mona and seventeen-year old father, Khan.
Mother and baby were temporarily separated from the male as a safety precaution, but have already been reunited in their yard in Wild Asia. Like other infants, the calf spends much time sleeping, however in unique camel fashion, it often assumes unusual positions that might suggest something is amiss. Guests should be reassured such odd positions are normal for camels and the baby is just very flexible!
Bactrian camels are endangered, with only 600-900 estimated to be left in the wild in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. They are superbly adapted to the harsh extremes of desert life, tolerating temperatures from minus 16° F to 120° F. Their thick winter coat protects them from both cold and heat, but is generally shed in the summer. Thick eyelashes and closable nostrils protect them from blowing sand, while broad flat feet support them on soft sand. Bactrian camels stand seven feet tall at the hump, and weigh 1,000 to 1,800 pounds.
Contrary to popular belief, camels store fat, not water, in their humps. When food is scarce, energy stored in the humps is used, causing the hump to shrink and droop to one side. When food is available, the humps firm up again. Camels can go ten months without drinking water if green vegetation and dew are available.