I was visiting an animal sanctuary located in Ontario Canada some years back. While there I became inquisitive of a sound I kept hearing. Being a rather adventurous type, I eagerly went to find out who or what was making the sheep like noises. The noises led me to a barn where I found a very cute baby camel recently rescued, alone, and impatiently waiting for it’s dinner. The cries he was making played on my mom heart strings and got me searching for some kind of camel pacifier, if there is such a thing. Having no idea at the time what camels ate, and seeing nothing at hand that might due, I settled instead to try and calm him by stroking his soft new fur until his care giver returned. I’m sure his silence once I started talking softly and caressing him was nothing short of annoyance. Most likely he was thinking stupid human, just open the green bin. but who new it was that simple.
Three years later, that same camel towers over me, and during those years of getting to know him he took away any question I had if camels have their own unique personality. He often displays jealously of the horses when anyone tries to interact with any one but him. He has a silly camel attitude that can only remind me of my four year old son, who I am constantly reminding of what is appropriate behavior and of course he totally ignores my requests. It saddens me when I see camels who’s lives are condemned to be walking around in circles at the local zoo, while people awkwardly try to ride them . If only the people could appreciate the fact that what they are sitting on are unique and special creatures.
I learned a lot about camels over the years. They are largely domesticated, used for transportation, milk and unfortunately food. Wild camels come from the most barren places on our planet, and they have been able to prosper in those barren places while other animals would only perish. They do so because they have special behavior and characteristics that enables them to survive extreme conditions. There 34 powerful, sharp teeth allows them to eat just about anything if food is scarce. They have excellent eyesight, can swim rather well and have a excellent sense of smell that keeps them alert of predators. Instinctively to avoid succumbing to the hot desert, camels rest during the day and feed in the cooler hours.
The family unit consists of a single male, a solitary to several females, sub adults and the young. The male averts contact between the cows within the family and unwelcome males by either standing or walking in between them. The Bull plays the leader role in the family unit and directs the family from the rear while the females take turns leading.
The male camels (bulls) and female camels (cows) begin the mating process seasonally once daylight becomes longer. The cycle can last up to 30 days depending on the availability of food as well as other environmental and social factors. Behavior displayed during the mating season includes males wetting their tails with their urine, then spreading the urine on the surrounding area by flicking it’s tail. Though camels are usually not aggressive, the bulls can become very aggressive during breeding season. Confrontation with other bulls can prove hazardous, consisting of snapping at each other and neck wrestling their challenger to the ground, sometimes resulting in suffocation. Once fertilized the cow will be pregnant from 12.5-14 months, then give birth to a single calf, twins being uncommon. The calf will become mobile and begin following it’s mother only a couples of hours after birth. Camels will have numerous mates throughout their lives, but do not bond with one another. If the calf and cows relationship is not interfered with by man, they will stay with each other for many years.
The relationship between man and camels seems to have benefited man, more than the camel. Even so, given respect camels will reward humans with gentle affectionate behavior. If a camel is made to feel threatened or upset it will spit cud and may become aggressive. My camel friend has never once made me feel intimidated by his size or strength, though I can easily see how much damage he can do if he felt the need to defend himself. He serves as a teacher to those who can’t see beyond his appearance. Mostly importantly though, he brings humor to a sanctuary where they always need happy endings.