Animal Diaries Archive
Camels Of Oz
2 July 2004Camels have been domesticated for thousands of years, proving to be a vital asset for humans. Camels are used for transport, carrying large loads, meat, wool, milk, tourism and even companionship!
The Dromedary, or one-humped camel, is native to the Middle East and North Africa. However, while there are millions of camels there, they are all domestic. There is only one place in the world you will find wild Dromedary Camels – Australia!
These camels aren't native; they were imported to Australia from 1840 onwards. They were invaluable beasts of burden used to develop Australia's dry, arid interior. Once cars, trains and trucks were invented, the working camel industry closed down in the name of progress, and most of the camels were released into the wild. Today you can find a few hundred thousand wild camels in Australia's remote deserts.
The ability of this animal to survive in the desert is awesome. Just imagine living in a hot, dusty, shadeless sand bowl! The camel really has conquered an extreme and unforgiving environment.
Camels can go weeks between drinking, and are able to drink brackish and salty water. Most moisture is obtained from the food they eat.
If there is not a lot of food around, the camel will utilise the fat stored in the hump on its back. The hump shrinks and fattens depending on lack or excess of food. Camels have a complex digestive system that allows them to eat many toxic plants. They eat around 80 percent of the plant life in the dessert, from spiky cactus, to saltbush.
An extremely dehydrated camel can drink 200 litres of water in 10 minutes! The ratio of water to animal size would actually kill any other mammal on earth!
To avoid sweating and losing valuable fluid, the camel can raise its body temperature by six degrees Celsius. No other mammal can do this!
Camels have a reputation for being cranky and obstinate. In fact, they are mostly good-tempered, patient and intelligent.
The Bedouin name for dromedary camel is 'Ata Allah', which means 'God's Gift'.
Next time you visit the Zoo, I'm sure you will look at the camel in a different light! Make sure you say a big hello to Teela and D.J. They will probably reply with a deep, throaty hello as well!
Bye for now!
Exotic Mammal Team Leader