In an appropriate celebration of World Camel Day, WCPF and our co-authors are pleased to announce the publication of the article “What is in a name? Common name misuse potentially confounds the conservation of the wild camel Camelus ferus” in Oryx the Journal.
In this article we discuss the implications caused by incorrect English common naming of the wild camel. You can read it here: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0030605322000114
The critically endangered wild camel, Camelus ferus, was until fairly recently widely thought of as either a feral Bactrian camel or the wild animal from which the Bactrian was domesticated. Numerous genetic studies have now shown this to be false and proved that the wild camel is actually a separate species to the domestic Bactrian camel [Camelus bactrianus]. There is abundant scientific proof that supports this. We believe this species distinction should be widely understood and advertised by conservation organisations as it suggests greater conservation importance for this critically endangered species.
This distinction is not a surprise for anyone in Mongolia and China, where the wild camel is native. In both these countries C. ferus is known locally, and named as a, separate species to the domestic Bactrian. In Mongolia it is called khavtgai (хавтгай), which means flat head (a name given to it to describe the difference in skull shape between it and the Bactrian). In China it is called 野骆驼 -Ye Luo Tuo, which means “wild camel”.
Despite both the abundant scientific evidence and the local naming distinction that shows the wild camel to be a separate species to the domestic Bactrian, the English common name frequently used to describe C.ferus is the “wild Bactrian camel”.
Continuing to use the name “Bactrian” to describe the wild camel suggests that the two species are one and the same. This is neither scientifically correct, supports indigenous distinctions nor holds conservation importance.
For this reason WCPF will not use “Bactrian” when describing C.ferus. We advocate for the use of either of the more suitable English common names “wild camel” or “wild two-humped camel” and that these should be used alongside its indigenous names wherever possible.
With thanks to our co-authors at the Institute of Zoology ZSL, the University of Kent and the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna.