Lancashire

Blackpool Zoo cares for endangered camels

Blackpool zoo keeper with one of their newborn Bactrian Camels
Image caption The young camels will be hand-reared for about three months

Two endangered camels are being hand-reared by specialist keepers at a Lancashire zoo.

The male and female calves, of the double-humped Bactrian species, were born in Blackpool on 6 May.

The pair have different mothers who both had problems nurturing their newborns.

The keepers are hand-rearing them at Blackpool Zoo to ensure their survival. The youngsters will be reintroduced to the herd in about three months' time.

The pair share the same father, Sid, the same birthday and when they were born they weighed about 20kg each. With the help of the keepers they have been putting on weight quickly.

Paula Mulvaney, the zoo's head of mammals, said just like some human mothers face problems getting their newborns to feed, it is the same in the animal world.

Being surrogate mothers to the zoo's baby camels was a challenge but one the keepers have previous experience of.

"Olivia was a first-time mum, she did everything right, but because the baby camel wouldn't feed off her she didn't know what to do, she didn't have the experience," Mrs Mulvaney said.

"Hopefully next time she will be better."

Threatened species

The zoo has a programme of animal conservation through breeding but how do you go about raising two animals featured on a list of threatened species?

"We gave them colostrum which gives them all the essential nutrients and vitamins, on day two we moved on to milk," Ms Mulvaney said.

Each day the young camels had five feeds, a mixture of calves' and lambs' milk powder, with keepers taking it in turn to return late each evening for the final feed of the day.

Image caption The zoo's keepers do not name young animals until they are a few months old

After the pair have been weaned they will join the zoo's six adults and a slightly older half-brother, who was born at the end of February.

Bactrian Camels are classified as critically endangered on an international list of threatened species.

There are about 800 left in the wilds of remote regions of the Gobi and Taklimakan deserts of Mongolia and Xinjiang. The species has two humps, while its relative, the Dromedary, has one.

With a long history of keeping Bactrian camels, Blackpool Zoo has successfully hand-reared calves in the past. Karamay, who is five, was raised and integrated back into the herd by keepers in 2006.

"She's back in the group and doesn't look for attention from us anymore," said Mrs Mulvaney.

The two cute youngsters have not been named yet and the zoo will be looking to visitors to put forward suggestions.

"We didn't name them as it's a little superstition the keepers have. They wait until they are fit and healthy and a few months old just so they know they're OK.

"We then pick a name that fits their personality," she added.

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