Bactrian camel

Camelus bactrianus

The Bactrian camel is a large, even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of central Asia. It is presently restricted in the wild to remote regions of the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts of Mongolia and Xinjiang. A small number of wild Bactrian camels still roam the Mangystau Province of southwest Kazakhstan and Nubra Valley in India. It is one of the two surviving species of camel. The Bactrian camel has two humps on its back, in contrast to the single-humped dromedary camel.

Bactrian camels belong to a fairly small group of animals that regularly eat snow to provide their water needs. Any animals living above the snowline are obliged to do this as snow and ice are the only forms of water during winter, and by doing so their range is greatly enlarged. The latent heat of snow and ice is enormous compared with water, demanding a large investment in heat, which forces animals to eat only small amounts at a time.

Nearly all of the 2 million camels alive today are domesticated. In October 2002, the estimated 800 remaining in the wild in northwest China and Mongolia were classified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Some authorities, notably the IUCN, use the binomial name ''Camelus ferus'' for the wild Bactrian camel and reserve ''Camelus bactrianus'' for the domesticated form.