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Camel Race Day, 23 September 2012

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

The Wild Camel Protection Foundation is organising a fund-raising Camel Race Day on Sunday, 23 September 2012 at 2.00pm at Hole Park, Rolvenden, near Cranbrook, Kent, England.

Joe and Rebecca Fossett have generously agreed to bring their racing camels from Warwickshire and there will be CAMEL POLO, CAMEL RACING and CAMEL RIDES. There will also be PIG RACING, a barbecue and many other side shows and attractions. Please make a note in your diaries to come to this colourful fund-raising event, which will be held in the setting of Hole Park, a country estate with beautiful, well known gardens, which the owners’ Mr and Mrs Edward Barham have generously made available for the event. 

Acclaimed journalist MATTHEW PARRIS is a guest of honour and we will try to get him on to the back of a camel. Camping can be arranged for people planning to stay overnight and there is also good accommodation locally.

Directions to Hole Park:

Full details of location may be found at the Hole Park Web site www.holepark.com

Staplehurst is the nearest station from Charing Cross, London. Hole Park is situated between the villages of Benenden and Rolvenden in Kent, 6 miles from Staplehurst and 55 miles south of London. The address is: Hole Park, Rolvenden, Cranbrook, Kent. TN17 4JA England. <www.holepark.com>gives details of how to get there by road and for non-internet users the A21 out of London should be taken and a left-hand turn to Goudhurst on to the A262. Through the village of Goudhurst and follow the signs for Cranbrook turning right on the B2085 by the Peacock Pub. Then follow B2086 to Benenden . Through the village of Benenden and a mile outside Benenden on the Rolvenden road, Hole Park is on the left hand side of the road and still on the B2086.

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Report on Zakhyn Us Breeding Centre 2011

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

 

Anna Jemmett’s Report on the Zakhyn Us Breeding Centre

The following report is based on personal experiences made during a stay in the Govi-Altai province, Mongolia, from between the 3rd of August to the 21st of October 2011. I was able to stay in Bayantori, Zakhyn Us and surrounding areas due to the support of the Wild Camel Protection Foundation UK. This report aims to outline the daily life of the wild camel herders in the late summer months as well as observations that were made on wild camel behaviour. Possible future goals will also be mentioned.

Daily life at the breeding centre

The family Ger is situated in summer grazing pasture (co-ordinates ). The grazing is based in water available areas which are much lusher and have more grazing than the surrounding desert. The Wild camels are herded, by the family, with domesticated dromedaries. During the summer months the adult camels are turned out and free-ranging whilst the calves are tethered overnight. This management technique is used to stop the mothers leaving with the calves.  In the mornings adult females are herded towards the desert whilst calves are un-tethered but monitored throughout the day. The calves were tethered again in the early evening, before the females arrived back. The females returned in the evenings to suckle the calves, usually between 4-6pm but were occasionally later. The calves called to mothers throughout the day, calling became more frequent in the evenings towards the time mothers were due to return. On Tuesday the 20th of August the herd (domestic and wild) were moved to further grazing. Again calves were tethered at night and females free-ranged, returning in the evenings to feed the calves. The male wild camels were not observed in the same area as the females, but seemed to be based near the enclosure at Zakhyn Us (co-ordinates).

 Grazing pastures- first (left) and second (right) 

Before the wild camels were brought back into the breeding centre at Zakhyn Us the shelter was mucked out and all the fences were checked and repaired. Once the work was finished the camels were brought back into the enclosure for the winter months. The camels were herded back in using horses and motorbikes. On the … the male camels were brought back into Zakyn Us. The females and calves were then brought in on…

The “Hasha” wild camel enclosure. Being cleaned (left) and surrounding habitat (right).

Towards the end of October the building of a house began at Zakyn Us. The aim of which is to have a weather proof base for the Wild camel herder to use over winter. The building began on the 12th of October and was completed on the 22nd of October.

Winter house at Zakhyn Us. Foundations and building process


Original aims.

The original aim of the expedition was to determine behavioural states of the captive bred wild camels and to observe mother young interactions. Because of the management technique of separating mothers and calves and females and males during the summer and early autumnal months it was not possible to gain an accurate study of the natural behaviour within the herd. Individuals were separated so that natural herd interactions were not visable. Also the inclusion of domestic Bactrian camels changed herd dynamics and interactions.  Observations were made on the herd and these will be discussed.

Observations

Aesthetic differences with domestic Bactrians.

The wild camels show a number of aesthetic differences from domestic Bactrian. Many of these could be dependent upon the time of year. As these observations were made between September and October they may change throughout the year. Further observations and measurements would need to be made to gain a clearer understanding of these differences.

 The coat of the wild camel is lighter in colour. The colour is also more general amongst individuals, domestic Bactrian’s show a much wider variety in coat colour. Wild camels show a distinct dorsal stripe that continues from the head onto the tail, which the Bactrian’s lack. The hair on upper front legs is darker than the rest of the coat. During the September/ October period the domestic Bactrian had a much thicker and longer coat than that of the wild, this could change with winter coat.  

The wild camels appear to be larger in size, taller, but this could depend upon age of the individual again a greater understanding could be gained with further investigation. The build of the wild camel is more athletic and leaner- even with the same grazing. The humps of the wild camel are smaller than that of the domestic and they are more pointed and upright.

Wild camel female (left) and domestic Bactrian male (right).

When looking at the head of the camel it can be noted that the upper lip is split and either side can move independently. As with most ruminants they lack an upper set of incisor teeth, instead having a cartilage pad. The lower incisors are at an angle from the jaw. When the camel is relaxed the lower lip droops. All these features are present in the wild camel. Photos bellow both show wild camel females relaxed with drooped lower lip.  Photo on the right shows the split upper lip.

Vocalisations

Communication between individuals appears complex with a number of different vocalisations. Most commonly used vocalisations are a sharp shriek which indicates a warning or anger, as does a short wail. Individuals also call to one another using a long howl (video) and this is both used between mother and calf and also between conspecifics. While separated throughout the day the calves frequently call to mothers even when the females are not visible. Individuals will also still call to one another whilst lying down.

A call/howl to conspecifics in the herd seemed to stimulate movement. It appeared that there was a hierarchy and the lead female initiated movement. This would need to be investigated further, both to determine whether the herd hierarchy is set and also when males are present.

Behaviours.

When herded separately both the mothers and the calves would stay in groups containing other wild camels. Although some domestic camels would also be seen to graze with the wild, the wild would always be together. It would be interesting to know when the domestic and wild were introduced, and at what age the calves were when this introduction occurred.

The camels would often show grooming behaviours between conspecifics. This included rubbing the heads and necks together. It would be interesting to determine if this happened between all individuals in the herd.

Towards the end of October the females began to show a number of behaviours that could suggest the beginnings of the rut. They would urinate on the back legs, including urinating and deficating whilst lying down. They were also seen to slap the tail onto the back.

Herd members.

There were four calves born in the spring of 2011 two male and two female. Other members of the herd include the 4 breeding females, two younger females, two large breeding bulls and 4 younger males. In the two months of the trip most interaction was with the calves and mothers, occasionally with the young females. The males were brought in on … and one had still not been located by the time the expedition was complete.


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Camel day in Warwickshire

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Over 350 people turned up on a rain-free day in Warwickshire to raise funds for the Wild Camel Protection Foundation. The day was a great success and the crowd was entertained to camel racing, pig racing and camel polo .A picture of the Wild Camel Protection Foundation polo team is shown and also a picture of the team in action. WCPF won 4 – 1 (the only goal against being scored when John Hare forgot which way he should be facing!).

The money raised will be put towards the outstanding projects which need funding at the Zakhyn Us wild camel breeding centre in Mongolia in particular the purchase of hay to ensure the wild camels are well fed over the winter months.

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2011 Expedition to the Taklamakan Desert and the Desert of Lop

Sunday, May 8th, 2011


John Hare has just returned from the expedition in China which Prince Albert of Monaco’s Foundation for endangered species and Ran Fiennes’s Transglobe Expedition Trust generously supported. The expedition consisted of two separate stages.

Stage One:
There were with John Hare on this stage two Chinese scientists, Professor Yuan Guoying and Yuan Lei, who have worked with WCPF on wild camel conservation for over 16 years. They travelled up the Keriya River, which stretches 250 kilometers from the town of Keriya to the south of the Taklamakan Desert and the Kunlun Mountains. These mountains form the northern escarpment of Tibet, and border the vast Taklamakan sand dune desert – the largest in the world. The purpose of this investigation was to follow up a report that wild camels had been seen near the point where the Keriya River finally drains into the desert sands. We reached the end of the river having interviewed herdsmen and elders along the way and made our final investigations at the village of Dariya. After thorough research the conclusion we reached is that there are definitely herds of wild camels in the Taklamakan (possibly three) and their total number varies between 30 and 50. As the Xinjiang government had not allowed us to proceed further with domestic camels into the vast area of Taklamakan sand dunes because of our proximity to oil prospecting, we had to terminate out investigations at Dariya – but our findings are highly significant. These 30- 50 wild camels are outside the area of the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve which our UK registered charity, The Wild Camel Protection Foundation, helped the Chinese government to establish in 2002 after initiating four previous surveys. Our next task is to work out how best to protect them. It is impossible to create a new Reserve among shifting dunes of sand, so we are concentrating on awareness-raising locally and specific education programmes for local schools.

Stage Two:
John Hare and Yuan Lei travelled with 15 domestic camels and four Kazakh herdsmen on a 305 kilometre journey over two huge barriers of sand dunes from the Hongliugou valley to Lapeiquan Spring. The route we took had not been attempted before and we were slightly unnerved to find we were faced with sand dunes over 400 metres high, one of which took over 2 hours to cross. The complete journey lasted just under three weeks. We encountered extremely low temperatures and two sand storms of considerable intensity and our head Kazakh herdsman (one of four) had his right arm removed from its socket by a kick from a camel. The arm was manipulated by the other three herdsmen and went back into place with a resounding ‘plop’ amidst a grind of gristle. Another Kazakh suspended himself by one leg on a rope upside down for half an hour to cure as he said ‘a swollen knee.’

They reached the spring of Kum Su which we had ‘discovered’ in 1999 and which is a spring deep below the level of the desert sands and which contained not only fresh water but a naive population of wildlife – wildlife which had never experienced the machinations of man. On returning there in 2005 from the east, we discovered that the spring had been polluted by illegal gold miners using potassium cyanide. On John Hare’s return to England in 2005 he protested through various channels (the Chinese Embassy in London, the Ministry of the Environment in Beijing, the National Geographic and the RGS) to the Chinese Government who said they would clean up the pollution. It was a huge relief to find that they had kept their promise, cleaned up the spring and that the wildlife was returning. But of course they are no longer naive and are now only too aware of what a rapacious species ‘man’ is.
Lastly and by no means least, we spotted 128 wild camels out of a Chinese total population of 600 which by any standards is encouraging. However, we are concerned that very few two-year-old and three-year-old camels were sighted due, we believe, to an increase in the wolf population. 

Conclusions:
The Chinese provincial government in Xinjiang considers our expedition to have been a great success.
1. We confirmed that there were 30 – 50 wild camels in the Taklamakan desert.
2. We pioneered a previously unmarked route over huge sand dunes and proved it was negotiable.
3. We saw 128 wild camels
4. We discovered that Kum Su spring had been cleaned up by the Federal Government.

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19th June – Camel Day in Warwickshire

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Joseph and Rebecca Fossett of Joseph’s Amazing Camels www.jacamels.co.uk have kindly offered to host a camel day in June to raise funds for the wild camel. Their generous support for this now Annual Wild Camel Event is much appreciated. There will be camel racing, camel polo, the ever-popular pig racing and numerous side shows. Please put this date in your diary and come and support this event on Sunday, 19th June 2011 at 2.00 pm, the Old Farmhouse, White House Farm, Idlicote, Near Shipston-on Stour, Warwickshire CU36 5DN, England (it will be very clearly sign-posted). For more details Email:harecamel@aol.com

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Startling Wild Camel Genetic News

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Dr Pamela Burger and Katja Silbermayr from the Institute of Animal Breeding and Genetics, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria have undertaken genetic and DNA research on the wild Bactrian camel This was organised by Dr Chris Walzer, formerly the director of Salzburg Zoo, who is now the Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarian at the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology, University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna. (more…)

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