Wild Bactrian Camel in Mongolia

The wild Bactrian camel is listed as a Critically Endangered species by the IUCN.


  • According to the IUCN as of 2004 there were 600 wild Bactrian camels in China and 350 in Mongolia.
  • Population trend is decreasing.


  • Scientific name: Camelus ferus. Camelus from the Latin camelus and the Greek Kamelos for “camel”. Ferus from the Greek word ferus meaning “savage” or “wild”.
  • Common name: Mongolian wild camel, wild Bactrian camel. Bactrian from the Bactrian region of ancient Persia, modern day northern Afghanistan.


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Artiodactyla
  • Family: Camelidae
  • Genus: Camelus
    • Species: Camelus bactrianus (domestic Bactrian camel)
    • Species: Camelus dromedaries (dromedary)
    • Species: Camelus ferus (wild Bactrian camel)


  • The distribution of Wild Bactrian camels is restricted to 3 regions in China and 1 in Mongolia.
  • China: Ganshun Gobi in Gansu, Taklimakan Desert in Xinjiang and Great Gobi Reserve.
  • Mongolia: Trans Altai Gobi Desert.
Wild Bactrian Camel Distribution Map

Wild Bactrian Camel Distribution Map



  • Wild Bactrian camels live in mountains, arid plains and desert areas with sparse vegetation and scarce sources of water.
  • The areas that they inhabit have large temperature fluctuations from up to 160˚F (70˚C) in the summer to -22˚F (70˚C) in the winter.

Physical Features

  • Wild Bactrian camels have two pointed humps composed of fibrous tissue and fat, which serves as storage of energy when food is not available.
  • Humps can disappear when the camel is near starvation.
  • Camels’ nostrils have evolved to recover water from vapor they would otherwise exhale.
  • Smaller than the domestic Bactrian camel.
  • They have long thick eyelashes to protect eyes against sand storms.
  • The coat of the wild species is lighter than that of the domesticated species.
  • In the winter its coat becomes thicker and thinner in the summer.


  • Bactrian camels (Camelus Bactrianus) were domesticated 4,000 to 6,000 years ago while wild Bactrian camels (Camelus ferus) avoided domestication. It is believed that isolation could have played a role.
  • Bactrian camels are extremely shy.
  • They are a migratory species and travel in groups.
  • Camels are ruminants and usually have four compartments in their stomachs. They Browse or graze for 6 to 8 hours a day and chew cud for another 6 to 8 hours.
  • In summer camels are able to go without drinking water for 5 days. In cold weather they can forgo water for months when green feed is available.
  • They can travel long distances searching for water. The wild Bactrian camel has adapted to drinking salt water which the domestic camels will not drink.


  • Grass, leaves and shrubs.


  • Female wild Bactrian camels reach reproductive maturity age 3 to 4 while males at age 5 to 6.
  • Breeding peaks in February- March. Gestation period is 12 to 14 months.
  • The young are born in March-April. Females give birth to one young, very rarely 2.

Life Expectancy

  • The life expectancy of wild Bactrian camels is an average of 40 years.


  • Wild Bactrian camels are killed for their meat.
  • They are sensitive to droughts and wolf predation.
  • Hybridization with domestic Bactrian camels poses a risk in the genetic strain.
  • Habitat degradation due to illegal mining and livestock activity.
  • Competition for grazing and water.

IUCN Critically Endangered

Conservation Status

 Interesting Facts

  • The scientific name of the wild Bactrian camel, Camelus ferus, was confirmed in 2003 by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature and recognized by the IUCN.
  • A thirsty camel can drink up to 200 liters of water in one day.



References and further research

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species – Camelus ferus

World Association of Zoos and Aquariums – WASA – Bactrian camel (camelus ferus)

San Diego Zoo Library – Bactrian and Dromedary Camels

Wild Camel Protection Foundation

Lincoln Park Zoo