May 28, 2014 at 11:25 pm

Newborn camel makes hump day debut at Detroit Zoo

A young Bactrian camel calf born May 18 debuts at the Detroit Zoo Wednesday. (Jennie Miller / Detroit Zoo)

The Detroit Zoo spent this hump day introducing the public to its latest addition: a newborn Bactrian camel calf, born May 18 to mother Suren and father Rusty, both 6.

“Suren is an attentive and experienced mother and she is keeping a close eye on her gangly little calf,” said Elizabeth Arbaugh, Detroit Zoological Society Curator of Mammals.

Visitors can now see the unnamed male calf in the camel habitat across from the Horace H. Rackham Memorial Fountain.

Camels are born after a gestation period of 12-14 months and the newborns are able to walk alongside their mothers in as little as 30 minutes. Bactrian camels have two humps while dromedary camels have one. They are filled with fat, not water as is commonly believed.

The calf weighed 126 pounds at birth and stands 3 feet tall, zoo spokeswoman Patricia Janeway said. His coat is soft and gray for now, but will eventually grow thick and coarse as it changes to a sandy brown color.

The calf, like all camels, was born with limp humps consisting of mostly skin and hair, but when he reaches about 6 months old, the humps will become more defined as they fill with fat.

Bactrian camels in the wild are critically endangered, numbering fewer than a thousand in Central and East Asia, according to the zoo.

“On many days, there are more visitors at the zoo than there are wild Bactrian camels in the world,” said Arbaugh.

Fully grown at 4, the camels stand about 7 feet tall and weigh up to 1,600 pounds. The species has adapted to desert life, developing large two-toed feet for walking around loose sand without sinking, two rows of long, thick eyelashes and narrow, slit-like nostrils that can be closed quickly to keep sand out.

The camels can survive temperatures from 20-122 degrees. In Michigan’s winter, the zoo’s Bactrian camels grow thick winter coats. In the summer, the coats shed in large clumps, which is why they have a ragged, unkempt appearance.

For information on the Detroit Zoo, call (248) 541-5717 or visit www.detroitzoo.org.

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