The zoo’s two-week-old baby camel was all over the local news after he went on exhibit Wednesday, so I hoped to get a clear view of him Thursday. Luck had me scheduled on the Northern Trail first thing, and I raced out into the balmy sunshine to behold the leggy cuteness for myself.
At about 150 pounds, this still-unnamed fellow is roughly one-tenth the weight of his molting mama, Sybil. (With the recent unseasonable warmth here, she apparently decided that winter coat just had to go.) I hadn’t actually seen the little guy on TV and didn’t expect him to be gray. Lured in like me by the news reports and short-lived glorious weather, a crowd of camera-toting spectators had lined up alongside the camel group. A preteen male voice behind me stated, “They like to spit” (when they’re angry, yes, the word on the street is that camels do spit). Another child exclaimed, “That camel has eight legs!” when the baby stepped behind his mom, his head and body hidden behind her bulk. In a quintessential kids-at-the-zoo moment, an octet of third-graders screamed in horrified delight when Sybil took a sudden spontaneous potty break.
Most of the world’s remaining wild Bactrian camels live in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, where their fat-filled humps and oval blood cells help this endangered species retain nourishment. (A memory device: The capital “B” has two humps, and so do Bactrians; dromedaries have one).
I’m not sure if that’s daddy Turk in the background of this photo, but Turk has fathered 16 calves to Sybil’s four. The zoo says Bactrian camels breed easily here — a happy example of exotic threatened creatures thriving in captivity.