The Wild Camel
Working as a camel safari guide in South Africa in the early 90s stirred my passion for these beautiful ‘ships of the desert’. Fortune smiled on me when I happened to cross paths with the renowned explorer, conservationist and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, John Hare (OBE), who introduced me to the recently discovered, double-humped Wild Camel (Camelus ferus), which survives in sparse desert regions near the Chinese-Mongolian border.
The Wild Camel is found in two separate localities – one in Mongolia in the Gobi Altai and one in North West China in Xinjiang - having been forcibly separated by a road and railroad built by the Chinese in the 1920’s. In China, the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve, an area which spans 155,000km2, was established in 2003 by John Hare and a Chinese scientific team. In Mongolia they live in the Great Gobi Specially Protected Area ‘A’ which was established in the 1970s by the United Nations Environment Programme.
In 2008, the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, after five years of testing skin, bone and blood samples sent from China and Mongolia, published a paper revealing it to be a new and separate camel species. In China it is found in the Desert of Lop - a vast and uninhabited salt-water desert - where it has adapted to drinking water with a saline content higher than sea water. Its closest relation, the double-humped domestic Bactrian camel which has distinct genetic differences, cannot drink the salt water slush in the Desert of Lop.
In addition, the Desert of Lop was, for nearly half a century, a Chinese nuclear test site. These remarkable animals not only survived the effects of radiation from 43 atmospheric nuclear tests, but also continue to breed naturally. Today, 600 exist in China and roughly another 400 in Mongolia. With only 1000 Wild Camels left on our planet, they are now officially recognised by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), as ‘critically endangered’.
Since they first explored their arid habitat in 1993, John Hare and his team have worked tirelessly to bring the Wild Camel back from the brink of extinction. The Wild Camel Protection Foundation (WCPF), established in 1997 by John Hare and WCPF co-managing trustee Kathryn Rae, is the only charity in the world with a specific mission to save this remarkable desert mammal and its pristine environment from extinction.
In 2004, a captive wild camel breeding centre (the only one of its kind in the world) was established with eight wild camels. It is now home to thirty-five Wild Camels with five new calves born in 2020. In addition, eight additional Wild Camels have been re-introduced into their natural desert habitat in Mongolia But with only 60 hectares of land, the breeding centre has now reached capacity, and a second site is crucial. Permission to proceed with this project has been received from the local authorities, but funding is urgently required to establish this second breeding centre.
As global wildlife conservation remains of paramount importance to me, I have recently drawn one of these Wild Camels in its natural habitat in the Gobi Desert. The Wild Camel is now the eighth most endangered large mammal in the world. Both the original drawing, and 100 signed (limited edition) prints are for sale. Every penny of the profits raised will go directly to the Wild Camel Protection Foundation.
WCPF enjoys the support of many wildlife experts, from Dr Jane Goodall, DBE, its Honorary Life Patron. to TV presenter Kate Humble who is also a Patron. YOUR support would be hugely appreciated, so that together we might save this precious animal from extinction. To purchase my original drawing, or to buy one of the limited edition prints, please click the button above. Prints cost £200 (65 cm x 54 cm, including border), and the original artwork is available for £7000 and will of course be framed professionally.