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This Wild Camel Sanctuary Used to Be a Nuclear Test Site

These hardy animals thrive in a truly unforgiving landscape.

Bactrian camels are considered to be a domesticated species, but about 1,000 survive in the wild of the Gobi Desert

Long ago domesticated, Bactrian camels are native to central Asia, and are able to easily endure the tough conditions of the steppes and deserts of the region. Wild Bactrian camels, while just as hardy, are extremely rare and face threats from hunting and habitat loss.

With only 1,000 or so wild Bactrian camels left in the wild, they’ve found remote corners of the Gobi Desert in which to thrive. The harsh environment is made even more extreme due to its use as an occasional testing ground for nuclear weapons.

Wild Bactrian camels’ extra thick fur makes them resistant to certain types of radiation and protects them from the extreme desert climate. In the Gobi Desert, daytime temperatures can reach up to 176 degrees Fahrenheit, but the well-insulated camels are kept about 70 degrees cooler by that thick fur.

Other key survivalist camel traits include the ability to drink pretty much any water, including water saltier than seawater, and double eyelashes that protect their eyes from sand in the wind.


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