John Hare is a trustee of WCPF and co-founder of the organisation. He went out to Mongolia in October in 2019 and we asked him some questions about his trip to the breeding centre and his work with the wild camel.
1. How did you become interested in the wild camel and why did you decide to establish WCPF?
I first became interested in the wild camel in 1993 when I travelled into their habitat in the Mongolian Gobi with Russian and Mongolian scientists. I then learnt that in China where the camels live in the Chinese former nuclear test of Lop Nur, they survived 43 atmospheric nuclear tests without coming to any harm. They also live there on salt water with a higher level of salt than sea water. What an incredible animal, I thought, and yet there are under 1000 in the world. It must be saved from extinction. I therefore decided to establish the Wild Camel Protection Foundation together with an environmental lawyer, Kathryn Rae. It was established as a UK charity in 1997.
2. How many times have you been to Mongolia and the Gobi and what did you think of your experience?
I should think I have been there about 15 times. Every time I go I realise I am so incredibly lucky to be able to enter one of the most hostile and remote, yet stunningly beautiful deserts on earth.
3. You must have a lot of stories from your time in Mongolia, what is your most memorable experience?
My most memorable experience was not in Mongolia but in Lop Nur in China when, in 1999 we discovered a population or wildlife trapped in a deep crevasse (which is a long narrow crack) hidden in sand dunes at the bottom of which was fresh water and a large amount of vegetation. Scientists call this a naive population – wild animals that have never seen man and therefore have no fear of man. As well as wild camels we saw the wild Tibetan ass and the wild Argali sheep and these animals showed no fear of us whatsoever.
4. You recently went out to the Mongolia Reserve and the Wild Camel Breeding Centre. What work were you doing out there and what did it involve?
The WCPF’s wild camel breeding centre at Zakhyn Us is full – 35 wild camels in 60 hectares (150 acres) of fenced land – so Dr Adiya, WCPF’s Mongolian wild camel expert and myself travelled over 3,000 kilometres to try to find a site for a new breeding centre – and we did so at a place called Tog Bulak. We are now seeking permission from the Mongolian government to allow us to use it.
5. What are your plans for the future of the charity?
The charity is going forward with full scientific support from a number of institutions. In particular we are contracted to Prague Zoo, a leading zoo connected with a long history of protecting endangered species. We have a student Anna Jemmett doing a PhD on wild camel genetics. For me it is very important the project moves forward on sound scientific lines.
6. What advice would you give readers on how to get involved with the wild camels?
If you would like to get yourself or your school involved in supporting the critically endangered wild camel, write to me at email@example.com. I will always come to give a talk at a school if I have an invitation and have already spoken to over 140. I believe it is very important to take the message about the wild camel to the younger generation and so I encourage YOU to write in.