Mystery of camel death solved

Yuan Lei, our Chinese Bactrian camel EDGE Fellow, recently sent us the post mortem results following the death of the wild camel he and his team from the Xinjiang Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve tried to rescue last year. Although this was not part of his EDGE funded work, Yuan Lei decided he had to endeavour to save this camel’s life. Sadly, after a mammoth rescue mission, the camel did not survive and a full post mortem was carried out at the Academe of Vet Research in Urumqi to determine the cause of death. 

Results from the post mortem revealed that the principal cause of death was due to blood poisoning caused from a back leg fracture she incurred. It is still unknown how the camel fractured her leg and for how long she had been injured. However, the antibiotic treatment the camel received in the days prior to her movement was insufficient to combat the infection which had infiltrated her bloodstream.

An additional factor contributing to the camel’s death was the fact that she had been stationary because of her injury and was unable to move for some time. As camels are ruminants, a prolonged period of time without movement can result in a build up of gas within the digestive tract. Failure to eliminate this gas can result in “Free gas bloat” and distension or bloating of the rumen which can compress other surrounding organs and obstruct blood flow. Distension of the rumen can also put pressure on the diaphragm and can interfere with lung function and cause difficulty in breathing.

Unfortunately it was also found that the female was pregnant. During the post mortem a tiny embryo was found- it was unknown whether the camel aborted before or after the leg injury, however an incomplete abortion can also lead to infection and adds additional stress to an already weakened immune system.

We were very sad to hear that the camel was pregnant and had hoped mother (and unborn calf) could have survived and contributed to the critically endangered remaining population of wild camels.


With fewer than 700 wild Bactrian camels surviving in China, the loss of a female of breeding age is extremely sad news. We congratulate Yuan Lei and the team on their efforts to save the camel, and hope that they have greater success should they be faced with a difficult task like this in the future.

Yuan Lei and Adiya (our Bactrian camel EDGE Fellow in Mongolia) are currently carrying out research projects to find out more about the main threats facing wild Bactrian camels and what actions are necessary to ensure these incredible animals survive well into the future. To support their work click here.


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  1. tim said,

    on March 21st, 2008 at 2:15 am

    Well it is really great news, that there is some work on the Camel.
    This is sad to read about because there are only 700 left.
    That sounds completely almost hopeless and rather absurd.
    Why they are few means they are being shot and eaten by the local people there no doubt ?
    Here Camel meat is often used for pet-food and some is sold in butchers out in the Desert areas.
    Kangaroos meat is exported and is for sale in supermarkets as the only shot-dead food for sale.
    Camels of the usual kind are an introduced pest in Australia and so probably 100 a month get shot for pet meat, by farmers.
    Perhaps a few Bactrian Camels could just be sent over to Australia ?
    Where they will soon breed and become a popular pet, like Llamas, not a rarity.
    I could write to the Gov’t on behalf of the Bactrian, if you think it’s a good idea to send some over here to Australia.
    To breed, such as on a well-fenced, wilderness, Desert sheep station.
    I know some cattle and sheep stations here are bigger than Scotland.
    Bactrians and your work seem to raise the whole idea of Camels to a higher level.
    They are very ‘Old World’, Biblical and exotic looking. They highlight the Camel ‘wonder’ and exhibit fascinating appeal.
    Let’s figure out how to save this species, is a naturalised wild Camel a good idea?
    Here the Arabians get fresh Camels since their’s are all sick and inbred.

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