Surveying wild Bactrian camels in China

Yuanlei, our Chinese EDGE Fellow, recently sent us this update of his work on the Critically Endangered Bactrian camel, just before he headed out into the field to collect more data to help conserve this remarkable species.

I am working in Xinjiang Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve. The reserve is very large, covering an area of 78 thousand square kilometres. This reserve is in an extremely dry region in south-east Xinjiang. The driest place now is Lop Nur, but fifty years ago this place was a huge lake full of water. Now it is a haven for wild camels, so wild camels are the most important wildlife found in the reserve.


The Reserve Management Office is a sub-department of the Xinjiang Environmental Protection Bureau (XEPB). We have three sub-stations in the regions of Bazhou, Turpan and Hami. The reserve includes the mountain of Arjin, Kumutage sand desert, thousands of valleys, dry basin, and desert etc.


The wild camel is a big mammal. Their habitat can be large and they can run a long way each day. I am going to the reserve to survey the camels. The purpose of the survey is both to patrol and observe. The main survey area is Arjin Mountain. I am going to investigate the wild camel, their migration route and habitat, in both desert plant and spring areas.


Also I am going to observe other animals which I could meet on the way, for instance the activity of Kiang, gazelle, wolf etc, and how they interrelated with wild camel. The wolf is especially important in relation to the wild camel.


I have not done camera trapping, radio telemetry etc on wild camel. I hope in the future I have the chance to research the wild camel in Lop Nur reserve using these advanced methods.


We have done a great deal of public education to protect the wild camel. We have prepared different education materials for the public because the best way to protect wild camel is to improve public awareness.


Worryingly, it is estimated that less than 1000 Bactrian camel survive in the wild (in contrast there are over 2 million domestic Bactrian camels currently living in Central Asia), so conservation research and actions such as those carried out by Yuanlei are urgently required to secure the future of the wild population.

If you would like to support Yuanlei and his conservation work for the Bactrian camel please click here.


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  1. John Turner said,

    on May 9th, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    I would really like to support Yuanlei and his conservation work for the Bactrian camel however I am unable to donate at present; is there any other way I could help? Thank you

  2. Sally - EDGE Team said,

    on May 9th, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Hi John,

    It’s really great to hear that you are keen to support Yuanlei’s work for the Bactrian camel – I don’t know if you are a runner at all, but the British 10K London run is coming up and ZSL have places for runners to support EDGE (for more information visit this page:,845,AR.html and there will be more info on the EDGE website soon).

    Recently we had a great boost to our donations from a couple of fantastic people running the marathon, proof that doing something like a sponsored even really can make a difference and allow us to support Yuanlei further.

    Another way you can help is to spread the word of Yuanlei and his work and raise awareness of the need to conserve the Bactrian camel.

    Best wishes and thank you for your support – it is always appreciated!

  3. John Turner said,

    on May 12th, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Dear Sally
    Thank you for your great response, I am indeed a runner but I live in Christchurch, New Zealand, so I don’t think the London run is appropriate. I run a bungee jumping company and thought this could be a good way to raise money. Have any EDGE species ever bungee jumped before?

    I really want to contribute to the good work of Yuanlei and his camel’s, and I hope that our discussion inspire other people to contribute.

  4. Sally - EDGE Team said,

    on May 12th, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    I think that is a bit far to travel for the British 10K! But maybe there is a similar run in New Zealand which you could do for EDGE, or even a sponsored bungee jump!

    Anything to raise awarenees is great, and every little bit of money raised really helps to save these otherwise neglected species.

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