Nearly all of the estimated 1.4 million Bactrian camels alive today are domesticated, but in October 2002 the estimated 950 remaining in the wild in Northwest China and Mongolia were placed on the critically endangered species list.
Bactrian Camels were domesticated around 3500 years ago as carriers of food and water. Camel’s humps store fat not water, but they can survive for months without drinking by feeding plants. However, when water is available they may drink up to a quarter of their body weight. They can close their nostrils to keep out sand during sandstorms and they will eat thorniest vegetation that no other animal will touch. They have a split upper lip for grabbing leaves and bark from trees. These camels also grow thick, shaggy winter coats for survival in cold climates. In the spring, the coat is shed in large sheets, which give the camel a very messy appearance.