How the Wild Camel Protection Foundation was established
John Hare, explorer, conservationist and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, undertook four pioneering expeditions in 1993, 1995, 1996 and 1997, (two using domestic Bactrian camels) into the Gobi deserts in China and Mongolia.
The year after his initial expedition with Russian and Mongolian scientists into the Mongolian Gobi, which stimulated his life-long interest in the wild camel, he met Professor Yuan Guoying a dedicated Chinese scientist and wild camel conservationist, who invited him to make an expedition into wild camel habitats in Lop Nur, Xinjiang, China. The Professor’s brother was a General in the Chinese army and John Hare entered the military area of Lop Nur, a former Chinese nuclear test site, with the military’s permission but without the knowledge of the Beijing government.
He was the first foreigner to enter China’s former nuclear test area for 45 years. The purpose of these expeditions was to research the only remaining habitats of the critically endangered wild camel in China and also to investigate the possibility of establishing a Wild Camel Nature Reserve, as atmospheric nuclear testing had ceased in 1979.
This vast uninhabited area is a salt-water desert and the salt content is higher than that of sea water. The wild camel has adapted to drinking this salty white slush, which the domestic Bactrian camel will not drink. The wild camel had survived 43 atmospheric nuclear tests, in this desert habitat, many of which were more powerful than the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of the Second World War.
In November of 1997, John Hare met the international environmental lawyer and conservationist, Kathryn Rae, who agreed to assist him in establishing a UK charitable foundation, which would be called the Wild Camel Protection Foundation. They are the co-Founders and the two Managing Trustees of the Foundation.
The sole aim and objective of the Wild Camel Protection Foundation is to protect from extinction the unique wild double-humped camel, the eighth most endangered large mammal in the world.
The importance of establishing the Foundation was fourfold.
- First, because there was no organization, nationally or internationally working to protect this IUCN red-listed mammal.
- Second, the wild camel global population is below 1000.
- Third, its habitat had shrunk to the Gobi Deserts in south-west Mongolia and north-west China.
- And finally the Chinese Government in 1997 agreed in principle, on condition the Wild Camel Protection Foundation obtained the necessary funding to establish a Wild Camel Nature Reserve to protect the remaining 600 wild camels surviving in Lop Nur.
The Wild Camel Protection Foundation decided to recruit a global membership, to involve as many people as possible in its work. Thanks to a large, loyal, world-wide membership of over 700 individuals, Zoos, Foundations, enthusiastic Patrons and Life Patron Jane Goodall DBE, finance has been successfully raised since 1997 to accomplish an incredible amount of work on behalf of the wild camels.
The following has been achieved:
- Assisting the Chinese State Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in establishing in 2002 one of the largest nature reserves in the world, the 155,000 square kilometer Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve in Xinjiang Province, China – the former Lop Nur nuclear test site. Raising funds from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) to part finance the project. Dr.Yuan Lei, the son of Professor Yuan Guoying, who accompanied John Hare on all his Chinese expeditions, is now the Director of the Reserve.
- The organisation and hosting by WCPF of a meeting in 2001 in Beijing between the Chinese and Mongolian vice-Ministers of the Environment and Nature, which resulted in a joint Letter of Intent signed by both governments to pledge mutual cooperation for the protection of the wild camel.
- The upgrading in 2003 of the Chinese Reserve from a Provincial Reserve to a National Nature Reserve.
- A training course for Chinese and Mongolian scientists held in Kenya in 2004 with sponsorship from Zoological Society London (ZSL) and training assistance from Dr. Tim Wascher, ZSL scientist.
- The establishment in 2004 of a Wild Camel Breeding Centre, the first and only breeding centre in the world for wild camels, at Zakhyn Us, in Mongolia. Two successful releases of wild camels bred at the centre were undertaken in 2013 and 2015.
- Five years of on-going genetic testing of wild camel samples from China and Mongolia at the Veterinary University of Vienna and in China. This culminated in 2008 with the scientific report from Dr Pamela Burger, that the wild camel is a NEW and SEPARATE species, which separated from any other known form of camel over 750,000 years ago.
- An environmental educational awareness-raising campaign in Mongolia and China, which has raised awareness of the plight of the wild camel around the world.
- An excellent on-going working relationship with the Chinese Environmental Protection Bureau and the Director of the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve. WCPF has an agreement with the Reserve to act as its sole international consultant.
- In Mongolia WCPF works directly with the Ministry of Nature and the Environment and Tourism and the Director of the Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area “A”, the only habitat of the wild camel in Mongolia.
- The establishment of a series of Nature and Ecology Clubs in Mongolian schools near the Protected Area. An ongoing environmental educational programme, about the wild camel (a Mongolian red-book listed species) for schools and adults exists in both China and Mongolia. The publication in five languages of booklets and materials about the wild camel.
- An agreement WCPF signed with Prague Zoo in 2018 to assist with the management of the wild camel Breeding Centre at Zakhyn Us, in Mongolia; and to work with them in the Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area “A”.
- An agreement signed with Knowsley Safari in 2018 for them to assist with all veterinary matters and procedures and safety protocols at the wild camel Breeding Centre at Zakhyn Us in Mongolia. The Breeding Centre is situated in the Buffer Zone of the GGSPA”A”
- An agreement signed with Yorkshire Wildlife Park in 2015 to assist with the financing of a wild camel release in the Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area “A” of wild camels bred at Zakhyn Us Breeding Centre in Mongolia and in 2018 an agreement to assist with the financing of a permanent Environmental Education Centre near the Breeding Centre and environmental educational programmes for school children in the buffer zone of the Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area “A”.
- The appointment in 2019 of Anna Jemmett, a zoologist, to undertake a PhD on the wild camel at the University of Kent, England. Her supervisors are Professor Jim Groombridge and Dr. John Ewen a ZSL Senior Research Fellow. Her PhD work will involve her in pioneering wild camel studies in the Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area “A” in Mongolia and at the Zakhyn Us wild camel Breeding Centre. She will study and continue the genetics work with Dr Pamela Burger at the Veterinary University of Vienna, Austria.
- An agreement in 2018 with Dr. Adiya Yadamsuren, zoologist and Mongolian wild camel expert for him to act as the WCPF Mongolian consultant. He is the Director of the Wild Camel Protection Foundation Mongolian registered NGO.
- Professor Phil Seddon and Dr. John Ewen are both members of the IUCN Specialist Species Reintroduction Panel and in 2017 agreed to become Consultants to WCPF providing the Trustees and Anna Jemmett with invaluable advice on the wild camel breeding and the re-introduction programme. Funding for establishing a permanent Environmental Education Centre near the Breeding Centre. A Centre to be used to raise local awareness of the Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area “A”as a habitat for the wild camel and many other endangered species. And to assist in the development of local environmental stewardship for all the rare Mongolian fauna and flora in the GGSPA”A”.
- Numerous fund-raising events include the UK Camel Day, four Camel Race Days and a performance at the Royal Opera House, London. John Hare has given over 150 lectures world-wide about the wild camel and undertaken a further three pioneering research expeditions with Chinese and Mongolian scientists into the Gobi deserts in China and Mongolia.
Increasing human pressure on the desert habitat, from both legal mining in China and illegal mining in both China and Mongolia, means the future for the wild camel in both countries is precarious.
As Managing Trustees we are looking forward to a positive future for the wild camel encouraged by the support and recognition WCPF has received internationally from both scientists and conservationists, for our efforts to protect the wild camel in its rare desert habitat.
However there is still much to be done.
We are hoping that the work being undertaken by Anna Jemmett will enable the Wild Camel Protection Foundation to develop a long term detailed plan for the wild camel to present to the Mongolian Ministry of Nature and Environment – a Wild Camel Management Plan which will ensure the long term survival of the wild camel in Mongolia and the sustainable management of its rare desert habitat. As an “umbrella species”, protecting the wild camel also means the protection of a number of other endangered fauna and flora.
The Scientific DNA proof that the wild camel is a separate species makes the future work of the WCPF even more valuable and important.
WCPF will continue to support the co-operation and exchange of information on the wild camels between Dr. Yuan Lei and staff of the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve and Dr. Adiya Yadamsuren and the Mongolian wild camel Breeding Centre. This is important for the future of the wild camel in its last remaining wild habitats in these two countries.
As Trustees we are encouraged by financial support for our work. It enables us to continue to implement a variety of wild camel programmes. This funding encourages us to consider that in these uncertain times there will be a meaningful future in the wild, for an animal which has survived for over 750,000 years.
As Trustees we will continue to use all our efforts to raise the necessary funds required to ensure that all the wild camel projects are completed. Projects which will ensure a sustainable future for the wild camel.
John Hare OBE, FRGS
Kathryn Rae LLM, LLB
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In recognition of the work to protect this critically endangered species both in China and Mongolia, and the hardships endured in establishing the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve, John Hare has received the following awards:
In 1998 an Environmental Award from the State Environment Protection Agency of China for great contribution to saving the critically endangered wild camel from extinction.
In 2004 the Ness Award by the Royal Geographical Society for raising awareness about wild camels.
In 2004 the Royal Society of Asian Affairs awarded him the Lawrence of Arabia Memorial Medal for exploration under extreme hazard.
In 2006 the Royal Scottish Geographical Society awarded him the Mungo Park Medal for distinguished contributions to exploration.
In 2009 the Wild Camel Protection Foundation is appointed the sole International Consultant to the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve.
In 2010 awarded the Lowell Thomas Medal by the Explorers Club of America for his dedication to protecting the critically endangered wild camel.
In 2014 awarded the Mongolian Environmental Protection Medal for outstanding contributions to wild camel protection from the Mongolian Ministry of Nature and the Environment.
In 2016 awarded the Mongolian Nairamdal (Friendship) Medal by the President of Mongolia for his outstanding contributions in protection of endangered wild camels.
In 2017 he was awarded the OBE by Her Majesty the Queen for services to conservation of the wild camel in Mongolia and China.