Bactrian camel Suren, 10, gave birth to female calf Tula at the Detroit Zoo  Wednesday, March 27. Officials said mom and baby are both doing well.

Bactrian camel Suren, 10, gave birth to female calf Tula at the Detroit Zoo Wednesday, March 27. Officials said mom and baby are both doing well.

Photo provided by the Detroit Zoo


Detroit Zoo welcomes baby camel born on hump day

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published April 16, 2019

 Tula was born weighing 128 pounds and standing more than 4 feet tall.

Tula was born weighing 128 pounds and standing more than 4 feet tall.

Photo provided by the Detroit Zoo

 The coat of Tula, a female camel born at the zoo March 27, is currently soft and gray, but it will become thick and coarse as it turns sandy brown.

The coat of Tula, a female camel born at the zoo March 27, is currently soft and gray, but it will become thick and coarse as it turns sandy brown.

Photo provided by the Detroit Zoo

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ROYAL OAK — On Wednesday, March 27, female Bactrian camel Tula came into the world to mother Suren, 10, and father Rusty, 11, bringing the Detroit Zoo camel family to five.

The newborn calf weighed 128 pounds and was able to stand — at more than 4 feet tall — approximately a half-hour after birth.

She was born after a gestation period of 12 to 14 months and has two siblings: brother Humphrey, 4, and sister Rusi, who will turn 2 in July.

Detroit Zoo Curator of Mammals Elizabeth Arbaugh said Tula, named for a river in Mongolia, was born well within the typical weight and size for a baby camel.

“Suren is experienced. She and Rusty have had a few other babies born here with a similar size and weight. It’s not uncommon for them to become pregnant shortly after birth,” Arbaugh said. “They’ve been at the zoo for quite a few years.”

The camel family, including its latest addition, lives in the camel habitat across from the Horace H. Rackham Memorial Fountain.

Arbaugh said Suren and Tula are able to see and interact with the rest of the family, but they are currently separated so that they can have the chance to bond. Arbaugh said they would be introduced to the other three camel family members in the next few weeks.

“Tula grows bigger and cuter by the day and seems quite curious about her surroundings. She is spending these early days of life napping, nursing and bonding with her mother,” Scott Carter, Detroit Zoological Society chief life sciences officer, said in a statement. “Suren is an experienced and attentive mom and keeps close tabs on her newest young one.”

Tula’s coat is soft and gray but will eventually grow thick and coarse as it changes to a sandy brown. Her humps, currently limp and consisting mostly of skin and hair, will become more defined as they fill with fat as she reaches the six-month mark, according to a zoo press release.

“She will nurse probably for about a year or so, and then they will slowly start to try other solid food,” Arbaugh said. “The camels are on a grain diet with a lot of vitamins and minerals. We also feed them carrots, sometimes sweet potatoes, and a lot of leafy items, including boughs cut from trees around the zoo, grape vines, and they also eat hay.”

Full-grown Bactrian camels stand about 7 feet tall at the humps and weigh up to 1,600 pounds when they reach maturity at around age 4. Their physical adaptations for desert life include large, two-toed feet to walk across sand without sinking; two rows of long, thick eyelashes; and slit-like nostrils that can close to keep blowing sand out, according to the zoo.

They are able to survive in temperatures ranging from minus 20 degrees to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, growing thick coats in the winter and shedding them in the summer in large clumps, according to the zoo.

The Bactrian camels at the Detroit Zoo are domestic, but the wild Bactrian camel is critically endangered, with a wild population of fewer than a thousand in Central and East Asia.

“On many days, there are more visitors at the zoo than there are wild Bactrian camels in the world,” Carter said in a statement.

The Detroit Zoological Society supports the Wild Camel Protection Foundation, the only charitable environmental foundation in the world with the exclusive goal to protect wild Bactrian camels and their habitat in the Gobi Desert, according to the zoo.

The Detroit Zoo is located at 8450 W. 10 Mile Road, west of Woodward Avenue.

For more information, call (248) 541-5757 or visit www.detroitzoo.org.

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.

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