EDGE Community

Project information

[Project name/title]
Ecology & Conservation of Wild Bactrian Camels in Mongolia

[Project description/overview]

Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area, Park A in southwestern Mongolia

Project type:

Relevant EDGE species:
Bactrian Camel (Camelus ferus)

Project members:
Carly Waterman
Richard Reading
Adiya Yadamsuren

Relevant species
13. Bactrian Camel (Camelus ferus) CR

Fewer than 1,000 of these two-humped camels survive today in one of the most hostile regions on earth.

[Relevance description]
Species background

The wild Bactrian camel only occurs in a few fragmented populations in northwest China and southwest Mongolia. This two-humped camel is superbly adapted to the harsh Gobi Desert, where vegetation is sparse, water sources are limited and temperatures range from -40°C to 40°C. Individuals eat thorns and dry, salty plants, which other herbivores avoid. They can go for several days at a time without nourishment, and when accessing a water source, can drink up to 57 litres in one go. Wild camels and their relatives differ from all other mammals because they have oval-shaped (instead of circular) red blood cells. They produce a protein in their milk that may be used to treat diabetes in humans, and they’re the only land mammals that can drink salty or brackish water, apparently with no ill effects.


To enforce protection of the wild Bactrian camel's habitat in Great Gobi A Special Protected Area, Mongolia, and work with local communities to reduce their impact on wild camels and their habitat.

Project summary
Wild Bactrian camels (Camelus bactrianus ferus ) differ physically and genetically from domestic Bactrian camels and are deeply valued by Central Asian people. For reasons not yet identified, numbers of wild camels have dwindled dramatically, with current estimates at <1,000 animals. Highly adapted to the extreme deserts of Central Asia, their decline is an indicator of the decline of the entire Great Gobi Ecosystem. Very little is known about these magnificent animals. In addition, past research provided inadequate data from which to formulate an appropriate conservation plan.

Building on preliminary research, we propose using direct observations, GPS telemetry, satellite imagery, GIS analyses, and fecal analyses to determine the major factors causing population declines and inhibiting recovery of wild camels. Our initial research focuses on movement and home range patterns, habitat use, foraging ecology, population dynamics, and sources of mortality. Our work promises to help gain an accurate and thorough understanding of the threats to and habitat needs of wild camels. This crucial information will help determine the conservation actions needed to recover the species. Successful conservation of wild camels, both an indicator and umbrella species for the Great Gobi Ecosystem, promises to lay the groundwork for protecting the entire ecological system.

EDGE has supported two Fellows to collect information on the relative impacts of habitat loss, hunting, hybridisation with domestic camels, poisoning and drought on wild Bactrian camels in Lop Nur National Nature Reserve, China, and Great Gobi Special Protected Area A in Mongolia. The information collected is informing the development of a long-term conservation strategy that will provide benefits to both the wild camels and the human inhabitants of the harsh desert ecosystem.

  • Status review carried out for wild camels in Mongolia
  • Stakeholder workshop to develop the first conservation strategy for the wild camel in Mongolia


Start date: 1997 - 2003, reinitiated in 2007
Duration: Undetermined
Future actions
  • Learning more about wild camels and protecting them through patrol-based monitoring and satellite technology
  • Addressing disease transmission and hybridization with domestic camels  through helping local communities to improve the health and management of domestic camels
  • Increasing awareness and engagement at the local, national and international level to cement the wild camel’s status as a flagship for one of the world’s last great wildernesses and ensure long-term support for conservation actions
Project members
Ms Carly Waterman : Project Leader

Carly is a Pangolin Technical Specialist at the Zoological Society of London, and the Programme Officer for the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group.

[Member role description]
Dr Richard Reading : Scientific advisor

Richard Reading is the Director of Conservation Biology at the Denver Zoological Foundation

[Member role description]
Adiya Yadamsuren MSc: Project partner

Adiya is from Mongolia and is working to conserve the wild Bactrian camel

[Member role description]
Project partners
J. Adiya
Wildlife Biologist
Mongolian Academy of Sciences
Email: adiyaj@yahoo.com

Evan Blumer, VMD
Executive Director
the Wilds

B. Mijiddorj
Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area
Mongolian Protected Areas Bureau
Email: greatgobi@magicnet.mn

Denver Zoological Foundation
Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area
Mongolian Academy of Sciences
Mongolian Conservation Coalition
Mongolian Protected Areas Bureau
Nature Conservation International the Wilds
Chicago Zoological Society
Denver Zoological Foundation
Global Environment Facility
Lincoln Children’s Zoo
Mongolian Academy of Sciences
Mongolian Conservation Coalition
Mongolian Protected Areas Bureau
Nature Conservation International Singapore Wildlife Reserves Singapore
the Wilds
[Title:] Image | Bactrian Camel | © Henry Mix
[Image caption]
Wild Bactrian camel mother and child
[Title:] Project partner logo
[Image caption]
Associated Blog Posts
27th Mar 12
The only true wild camels that still exist are Bactrian camels (Camelus ferus). This species can survive in one of the most hostile environments on Earth, th...  Read

22nd Dec 09
From the 18th to the 30th of November 2009, Adiya (Bactrian Camel EDGE Fellow) and Henry (Steppe Forward Programme Co-ordinator) participated in the Mongolia...  Read

[Title:] Activities
[Image caption]
Wild camel surveillance
[Title:] Project partner logo
[Image caption]
Mongolian Conservation Coalition
[Title:] Project partner logo
[Image caption]
the Wilds