For Release: January 18
Contact: Peper Long 202-673-0206
National Zoo Euthanizes Camel
Early Saturday morning, animal care and veterinary staff at the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park euthanized an ailing, female Bactrian camel. Gross necropsy, completed late yesterday, confirmed arthritis in the left carpal joint, which in humans, is the joint located at the wrist.
This 17-year-old camel was born at the Toronto Zoo, and arrived at the National Zoo during the spring of 1987. She had arthritis for many years, but kept comfortable through pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications. Staff closely monitored the camel's condition for the past year, assessing and discussing appropriate treatments and options. Recently, however, staff noticed the camel making more frequent noises, called vocalizations, which often indicate discomfort. In addition, the camel displayed a more significant physical change in her stance, most likely in an effort to shift weight from the arthritic limb. Animal care and veterinary staff agreed that the camel's quality of life had deteriorated, and the decision was made to euthanize her.
Bactrian camels, distinguished by their two humps, grow to seven feet, and weigh approximately 1,000 pounds. Their humps store fat, which is metabolized to produce water as a by-product. This allows these animals to survive long periods without food.
As of 2002, wild Bactrian camels are considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, with approximately 1,000 surviving in their harsh, native habitat of northwest China and Mongolia, where summer temperatures can spike to more than 100 degrees, only to plunge during winter to below freezing.
In this unforgiving desert climate, Bactrian camels have long eyelashes and hair-lined ears - and can close their nostrils - all for protection from the blowing desert sand.
The National Zoo has another male Bactrian camel currently on exhibit.
Founded in 1889, the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park exhibits living animal and plant collections that celebrate, study and protect the diversity of animals and their habitats. Each year, nearly three million visitors enjoy the 163-acre park, which is free of charge. The National Zoo is a leading research center for conservation and reproductive biology, with scientists working at the Zoo as well as the 3,200-acre Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Va. Currently, there are approximately 2,700 animals from 435 species in the Zoo's collection.