Posted July 2019
The Milwaukee County Zoo is excited to announce the birth of a male Bactrian camel! Jethro was born June 7 to parents Addie-Jean (better known as A.J.) and Stan. He was born underweight and initially had difficulty nursing, but he continues to improve every day. The calf is becoming more inquisitive, interacting voluntarily with zookeepers more, and can now be seen running around the habitat.
Mother A.J. is 7 years old and father Stan is 6 years old. This is A.J. and Stan’s second offspring. Their other son, George, was born in 2017.
Jethro weighed 85 pounds at birth, which is underweight for a newborn calf. Zookeepers also noticed that the calf had trouble nursing due to his lower jaw being longer than his upper. Because of his low weight and inability to adequately feed on his own, zookeepers provided supplemental bottle feedings for the calf.
However, he’s now gaining weight and is starting to have the energy levels for a camel his age. Vets are still carefully monitoring the camel’s weight and overall health.
Bactrian camels can grow up to 7 feet tall and weigh up to 1,800 pounds. They have long, wooly coats that range in color from dark brown to beige. Bactrians also have manes and beards of long hair on their necks and throats. They can be distinguished from other species of camels by their two humps—Dromedary camels only have one.
Bactrian camels are native to central Asia. They migrate with flocks through harsh conditions; including, sparse vegetation, limited water sources, and extreme temperatures. They have several adaptations that allow them to survive in these conditions. For one, their humps allow them to travel long distances without food or water. It is a common misconception that the humps store water; however, they actually store fat, which can be used as energy when nutrients aren’t available. Another adaptation is their two rows of long eyelashes that block their eyes from sand and dust.
Bactrian camels are herbivores. They have extremely tough mouths that allow them to eat almost any type of vegetation, even those with thorns. In times of environmental stress, they will eat fish, carcasses, and rope, among others.
Wild Bactrian camels are considered critically endangered by the IUCN. Their population is expected to decrease by 80 percent in the next three generations because of hunting and predation.
Stop by the Camel Yard during your next visit to see the calf! He is now out in the Camel Yard most days, weather dependent. The Camel Yard is located between the South American Yard and Rhino Yards. You may even see him running and playing!