Camelus ferus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Camelidae

Scientific Name: Camelus ferus
Species Authority: Przewalski, 1878
Common Name(s):
English Bactrian Camel, Wild Bactrian Camel, Two-humped Camel
French Chameau De Bactriane, Chameau Domestique
Spanish Camello Bactriano
Camelus bactrianus Linnaeus, 1758
Taxonomic Notes: The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (2003) ruled that the name for this wild species is not invalid by virtue of being antedated by the name based on the domestic form. Therefore, IUCN considers the wild species of Bactrian Camel under Camelus ferus, while the domestic form is considered under Camelus bactrianus (see Gentry et al. 2004).

Grubb (2005) lists ferus as a subspecies of bactrianus, contrary to most authors.

One-humped camels (Camelus dromedarius) and Bactrian camels (Camelus ferus) can produce viable hybrids (Camelus dromedarius hybridus J. Fischer 1829, unavailable), but hybrid males are thought to be sterile (A.P. Gray 1972).

Samples of skin taken from the remains of dead wild Bactrian Camels have been sent to scientists for genetic DNA testing. The results have been remarkable. Each skin sample has shown two or three distinct genetic differences to the domestic Bactrian camel and a 3% base difference. This answers the charge that the wild Bactrian camel is a domestic runaway. The wild Bactrian Camels in the Gashun Gobi are the only herds which are completely isolated from domestic Bactrian Camels. This lack of an opportunity to hybridize is what makes their survival so vital. It is these remnant herds that the Wild Camel Protection Foundation is striving to save, by establishing, with Chinese government support, the 65,000 square kilometer, Arjin Shan Lop Nur Nature Reserve.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A3de+4ade ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Hare, J.
Reviewer(s): Stuart, S.N. (Global Mammal Assessment Team) & Hare, J. (Wild Camel Protection Foundation)
This species is assessed as Critically Endangered. The Wild Bactrian Camel is facing a population size reduction of at least 80% within the next three generations (estimated at 45 to 50 years). This projection is based on observations made during five expeditions (1993 - Mongolian Gobi and 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999 - Chinese Gobi). The population is the target of continued hunting (mainly persecution because the camels compete with domestic camels and livestock for water and grazing, but also sport hunting). Mining, both legal and illegal, and the proposed construction of a gas pipeline and the associated industrial development, as well as a proposed kaolin mine, would also have an impact on the main Chinese subpopulation of Wild Bactrian Camel. The effects of hybridization with domestic camels both in Mongolia and China and increased human competition and economic pressures within the designated habitat of the wild Bactrian camel, have also prompted this listing. The Mongolian subpopulation is known to have declined by 46% since 1985. However, due to increased hunting and wolf predation it is now expected that 25-30 animals will be lost annually from this subpopulation (a substantial increase in the mortality rate). Based on these observations and assuming that the trends will continue into the future, it is estimated that there will be at least an 84% reduction in the population size by the year 2033 (approximately three generations from 1985). Given the increasing threats to the Chinese subpopulations (where at least 20 animals are killed annually) there is no reason to expect the situation for these subpopulations to be any different.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Bactrian Camel is restricted to four subpopulations in China and Mongolia: Gashun Gobi, Gansu, China; Taklamakan Desert, Xinjiang, China (this population has declined and may now be extinct); the northern slopes of Arjin Shan mountains and adjacent areas in Lop Nur Wild Camel National Reserve, China; and the Great Gobi Section A Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, and adjacent areas in China (Reading et al. 1999, Mix et al. 2002, Wang et al. 2002). In Mongolia, the species is found in the Trans Altai Govi Desert (Mix et al. 2002), including the foothills of the Edren Range to Shiveet Ulaan, and the Hükh Tömörtei Range to the state border (Mix et al. 2002, Adiya et al. 2004, Adiya and Dovchindorj 2005).

A domestic form, considered under a separate species name (Camelus bactrianus), exists in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and China (Grubb 2005).

The range of the wild Bactrian camel in historic times extended from about the great bend of the Yellow River, across the deserts of southern Mongolia and northwestern China to central Kazakhstan. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the species had been extirpated from the western part of its range, and persisted only in remote areas of the Gobi and Taklimakan Deserts. These populations have become increasingly fragmented over the past 150 years (Schaller 1998).
Countries occurrence:
China (Xinjiang); Mongolia
Regionally extinct:
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:In the year 2004, there were approximately 600 individuals surviving in China and 350 in Mongolia, with numbers continuing to decrease (J. Hare pers. comm.). In 1985 the Mongolian subpopulation numbered 650 animals.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:950-950
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species is found in the Gobi and Gashun Gobi deserts of northwest China and Mongolia. While vegetation is sparse, the desert itself varies from rocky mountain massifs, to the flat pavement-like areas of the extremely arid desert; stony "gobi" desert plains; poplar fringed oases; vast washed-out plains and high sand dunes. In some areas, in the absence of fresh water, it has adapted to drinking salt water slush which the domestic camel will not touch.

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is still hunted for food and sport.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): It is estimated from information received from the Protected Area staff and Mongolian scientists working in the 'Great Gobi Reserve A' that in Mongolia, 25 to 30 Wild Bactrian Camels are being killed annually when they migrate across the international border into China on the southernmost boundary of the protected area 'Great Gobi Reserve A'. The hunting is mainly for local subsistence use.

Due to the reduction in water points (oases) because of drought, wolves have increased their predation of Wild Bactrian Camels. This activity is concentrated at the remaining water points in the area. The remaining habitat in Mongolia is also being degraded by domestic livestock.

In China in the new Arjin Shan Lop Nur Nature Sanctuary, up to 20 Wild Bactrian Camels are killed annually by miners and hunters for subsistence use. Economic pressure to use the areas adjoining the Nature Reserve as grazing for domestic Bactrian camels has increased hybridisation on the southern border and this poses a significant threat to the unique genetic strain of the Wild Bactrian Camel which current scientific DNA research suggests is a separate species.

For 45 years, this area of the Gashun Gobi was the nuclear test site area of China. In spite of this, the Wild Bactrian Camel survived and is apparently breeding naturally. Since the cessation of nuclear tests in China, the Wild Bactrian Camel now faces new threats including highly toxic illegal mining and hunting for food and sport. Parts of the Wild Bactrian Camel's designated habitat are likely to be designated for industrial use (gas pipe line laying, exploitation of minerals). Domestic Bactrian camels and goats have also been introduced to the designated areas and hence compete for grazing and water.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The 'Great Gobi Reserve A' was established in Mongolia in 1982 and in 2000, the 'Arjin Shan Lop Nur Nature Reserve' was established in China. Although the first phase of Nature Reserve construction is now complete, much more work, including the opening of a second Nature Reserve in China is needed.

The establishment of a captive Wild Bactrian Camel breeding programme in Mongolia has been established by the Wild Camel Protection Foundation. This is an urgent conservation priority. Only fifteen wild Bactrian camels are currently in captivity in China and Mongolia. With so few captive animals, the whole species could be wiped out if their natural habitats in China and Mongolia are destroyed. It is therefore important to breed enough animals in captivity to insure against this possible disaster. As each female camel can have young at most once every two years, relying on natural methods would permit the numbers to rise only very slowly.

Classifications [top]

8. Desert -> 8.2. Desert - Temperate
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
3. Species management -> 3.4. Ex-situ conservation -> 3.4.1. Captive breeding/artificial propagation

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:Yes
In-Place Education
1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.2. Commercial & industrial areas
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.3. Livestock farming & ranching -> 2.3.1. Nomadic grazing
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

3. Energy production & mining -> 3.2. Mining & quarrying
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.3. Persecution/control
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓ 

♦  Sport hunting/specimen collecting
 Local : ✓   National : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

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Citation: Hare, J. 2008. Camelus ferus. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T63543A12689285. . Downloaded on 23 January 2017.
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