This week I met some of the keepers at ZSL London Zoo who are responsible for caring for two very special EDGE species – the pygmy hippopotamus and the Bactrian camel. Both species are major priorities for EDGE research and conservation action in the wild, and it was fascinating to hear more about the ones that live right outside my office.
The two pygmy hippos, Nicola and Thug don’t appreciate the cold English winters and spend half the year sheltered from the elements in the warm, dry Cassons Pavilion. Every spring they migrate to their summer paddock, a large grassy area with a lovely pool for wallowing in. In the wild pygmy hippos spend much of their time resting in swamps, wallows or rivers so it is important that they are able to do so in captivity too. You can view footage of the hippo’s migration here.
There are plenty of pygmy hippos in zoos all over the world yet surprisingly little has been done to conserve the species in the wild. We hope to change that by working with an EDGE Fellow in Liberia to find out the threats to the species there and work with local communities to address them. More on this from Ben soon.
The zoo’s two camels, Nadia and Noemie are the pygmy hippo’s neighbours. They have serious bad hair days at the beginning of the summer as they rapidly shed their thick winter coats. Almost all the thick winter fur has gone now, with a little help from their keeper and a pair of scissors!
The zoo’s domestic Bactrian camels are very different from their wild cousins who are more slender and have smaller humps. Research is currently underway to determine whether they might in fact be a completely separate species. One of ZSL’s keepers, Oliver Duprey has recently returned from an expedition to the Zakhyn Us Wild Bactrian Camel Breeding Centre in Mongolia. Read more about Oliver’s trip here.
Yesterday, Jonathan and I met with Bilgee, who manages the captive breeding centre and will be providing in-country support to Adiya, our Mongolian EDGE Fellow. Together with Tim Wacher and Raj Amin (ZSL experts on monitoring and protecting desert ungulates) and John Hare and Kate Rae from the Wild Camel Protection Foundation, we finalised one-year project plans for Adiya and Yuan Lei.
Both EDGE Fellows will be working to conserve wild Bactrian camels in their natural habitats. Adiya will be carrying out research in the Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area A in Mongolia and Yuan Lei will be working in the Lop Nur Wild Camel Nature Reserve in China. Camels in both areas are thought to be threatened by hybridisation and disease transmission from domestic camels, mining activities and hunting. By ensuring that the two Fellows carry out their research in parallel we hope to facilitate communication between Chinese and Mongolian camel researchers and ensure that the most appropriate solutions to the threats are implemented.