View from the Zoo column with Michelle Dennis

The Bactrian Camels at Flamingo Land are moulting at the moment.
The Bactrian Camels at Flamingo Land are moulting at the moment.

It’s that time of year when our Bactrian camels are shedding their hair! This natural process happens annually, and makes our camels look very shabby.

The camels can lose up to five pounds of hair per year, and it will fall away from the body in clumps making their coat appear quite unattractive.

This process will take around six to eight weeks to complete fully, so it is a very long, drawn out makeover!

The moulting of the hair helps keep the camels cool during the warmer summer months.

Bactrian camels are critically endangered animals found in the Gobi desert in Asia. Despite there being numerous domesticated camels, the Bactrian camel population is less than 1,000, with around 600 individuals in China and 350 in Mongolia.

Unfortunately the population numbers are decreasing due to several threats.

Camels are hunted for their meat by local nearby residents.

Droughts can affect the camels due to a decrease in water pools making it harder for them to find sources of water.

Conservation efforts in Mongolia and China are in place to protect these camels in their natural habitat however breeding programmes within zoos are also extremely important to maintain the population numbers.

Female camels only give birth around every two years, and they are pregnant for between 12 and 14 months, so their reproductive rate is fairly slow.

This would mean that it would be difficult for them to recover from extremely low population numbers, and avoid extinction.

Despite the camels living in such a harsh environment, and facing lots of threats, they are very well adapted to their habitat. The camels have very long eyelashes and they are able to close their nostrils to prevent sand from blowing into them.

They have fat in their humps which they are able to break down into water and energy if they’re struggling to find natural water sources.

Camels also have large feet which help to spread their weight whilst walking through the sand dunes in the desert.

So the next time you see a camel, have a close look at their adaptations, and appreciate the long process of shedding their hair!