Willow is enjoying life at the zoo

Willow can be seen in the camel house with mum Abi.
Willow can be seen in the camel house with mum Abi.

In late March we had a female camel calf born at Flamingo Land. The calf has been named Willow by the zoo keepers and is currently living in a section of the camel house with Abi the camel, usually visible to the zoo visitors.

The calf’s dad, Baxter, is living within the same camel house along with the rest of our camels, although they are being kept separate from Abi and Willow until Willow is a bit older.

All of our camels are the domesticated two-humped Bactrian camels. Wild Bactrian camels are critically endangered and 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, droughts can affect them due to a decrease in water pools and pools which remain may have populations of wolves close by. Their habitat is also being invaded by farmers and their livestock.

Conservation efforts in Mongolia and China are in place to protect these camels in their natural habitat. 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.

Despite the camels living in such a harsh environment, and facing lots of threats, they adapt to their habitat well.

Camels have very long eyelashes and 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. Their large feet helps them to spread their weight whilst walking through the sand dunes in the desert.

The camels are also looking a lot smarter than what they were a few weeks ago. They are just completing their annual moult of their winter coat and are showing off their thinner summer coats. When the fur is moulting the camels look very messy as the fur hangs and drops off in clumps. The new summer coat will help to keep them cooler during the next few months.