A pair of dromedary camels named Teela and Dajarra get along quite well in their sandy Australian enclosure.
Steve and Terri happened across Dajarra, an orphaned calf, while traveling in the Australian outback. Together they loaded the 4-month-old camel into Steve's four-wheel drive and took her back to the Australia Zoo.
There, Dajarra was bottle-fed 3 liters of milk seven times a day for 18 months. Aside from her daily feedings, Dajarra was basically allowed to do as she pleased around the zoo.
Today Dajarra hangs out with Teela in their very own enclosure. They enjoy being fed by the public and giving camelback rides to the keepers.
Dromedary camels were domesticated 4,000 years ago in what is today the United Arab Emirates. They went extinct in the wild 2,000 years later, and nowadays only domesticated, semi-domesticated and feral populations remain.
The camels were originally introduced to Australia in 1840. In 1860 several shipments arrived for an outback expedition and proved to be very well adapted to the Australian desert, carrying heavy loads over vast, arid expanses with little need for food or water.
Camels continued to arrive from India, Pakistan and other countries until 1907, when the advent of the motorcar and railroads rendered the mighty pack animals obsolete. No longer needed, the camels were set free to roam the outback.
Today Australia has the largest feral population of dromedary camels in the world, with estimates ranging from 25,000 to 200,000 individuals.
Outside Australia, dromedary camels are found in the Middle East, northern India and northern Africa.
These "ships of the desert" are incredibly well-adapted to their environment. When conditions heat up, camels can increase their own body temperature, which prevents sweating and therefore water loss.
Camels can tolerate a 40 percent loss in body mass when food and water are scarce, an amazing feat when one considers that a 15 percent such loss would kill most other mammals.
The dromedary camel's most distinctive feature is its single hump. The hump, composed of fat bound together by fibrous tissue, functions as food storage; the popular conception that camel humps are full of water is untrue.
Speaking of water, camels can rehydrate more quickly than any other mammal. The rate at which they can drink water — more than 200 pints in just 10 minutes — would be lethal to most animals.
Name: Dromedary Camel, aka Arabian Camel (Camelus dromedarius)
Primary Classification: Camelidae (Camels and Relatives)
Location: Northern Africa, the Middle East, northern India and Australia.
Diet: Mainly thorny plants, dry grasses and saltbush.
Size: Up to 11 ft in length and 1,210 lbs in weight.
Description: Caramel or sandy brown in color. Double row of eyelashes and brows. Long, curved neck. Single hump. Deep, narrow chest. Long hair on throat, shoulder and hump. Pad-shaped feet.
Conservation Status: Domesticated (Extinct in the Wild)