This is the fascinating account of the conservationist John Hare's personal adventures in the 1990s: four treks by vehicle and camel train into the arid and dangerous Mongolian Gobi desert and the Gashun Gobi desert of China. It is a quest of environmental science, to determine if the wild camel still exists in this remote and forbidding environment. Science had long thought the wild camel to be extinct, with any roaming free to be merely feral animals, escaped domestics that had returned to the wild.
The success is startling, adult and young camels are found and photographed. DNA samples prove that the two-humped Bactrian (Camelus bactrianus ferus) is indeed the living ancestor of both the one and two-humped domestic camel. The Bactrian camel is now thought to have been domesticated at least 5000 years ago. John Hare's wild camels exist in very small isolated breeding groups, and probably less than 1000 are left in total. The wild camel is even nearer to extinction than the giant panda, and is now also listed as 'critically endangered'. These camels are the only known mammals to have adapted to drinking salt-water alone. They are of great interest to biologists, also having unique immune systems which render them immune to certain viral infections common in large mammals and resistant certain bacterial diseases. Unlocking the knowledge of their uniquely small and mobile antibody protein molecules may prove applicable to creating new human vaccines.
A conservation project to breed these animals and protect the wild gene pool has been set up and a website to keep you up-to-date.
This report prepared by Michael JR Jose