Camel Calf Captivates Crowds
The latest "awww"-inspiring addition to the Detroit Zoo is a male Bactrian camel born April 28, 2012, to 4-year-old mother Suren and 4-year-old father Rusty. Bulgan (pronounced BULL-gan) – named for a province in Mongolia where the species is from – is drawing visitors to the camel habitat across from the Horace H. Rackham Memorial Fountain, where he can be seen with his parents and 16-year-old female, Princess.
"This calf is a great addition to the Detroit Zoo. He is doing very well and growing cuter by the day," said Robert Lessnau, Detroit Zoological Society Curator of Mammals.
Camels are born after a gestation period of 12 to 14 months. A newborn calf is able to stand and walk alongside its mother in as little as 30 minutes.
Bulgan weighed 102 pounds at birth and currently stands about 3 feet tall on long, slender legs. His coat is soft and gray but will eventually grow thick and coarse as it changes to a sandy-brown color. A camel's humps are limp at birth, consisting mostly of skin and hair. When the calf reaches about 6 months old, its humps will become more defined as they fill with fat.
Contrary to popular belief, camels store fat – not water – in their humps, providing energy when food is limited. The Bactrian camel has two humps, compared to the dromedary camel, which has one. The easiest way to remember this camel trivia is to turn the first letter of the camel's name on its side. "B" for Bactrian has a double hump and "D" for dromedary has a single hump.
The Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) stands about 7 feet tall at the humps and weighs up to 1,600 pounds when it reaches maturity at around age 4. The species has many physical adaptations for life in a harsh desert environment. Its two-toed large feet allow it to walk across desert sand without sinking, and two rows of long, thick eyelashes and narrow, slit-like nostrils can be quickly closed to keep the sand out.
With the ability to survive in temperatures ranging from minus 20 degrees to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, Bactrian camels are well-suited to Michigan's climate. They grow thick winter coats to withstand cold temperatures, and in the summer their coats shed away in large clumps, giving them a ragged, unkempt appearance.