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Ecology & Conservation of Wild Bactrian Camels in Mongolia


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.

Image | Bactrian Camel | © Henry Mix
Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area, Park A in southwestern Mongolia
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.

Map & Range
Species Threats

Formerly widespread across the deserts of Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan, the wild Bactrian camel now exists in small, fragmented populations, with the global population estimated to be fewer than 1,000. Surviving populations live in a hostile landscape; their continued existence threatened by illegal mining, competition for scarce resources with introduced livestock and disease transmission.

Project actions

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


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
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Related Media
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, the Gobi desert of Mongolia, wit...
From the 18th to the 30th of November 2009, Adiya (Bactrian Camel EDGE Fellow) and Henry (Steppe Forward Programme Co-ordinator) participated in the Mongolian ungulate survey organised by...

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