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A critically endangered baby camel has been saved after keepers at Longleat Safari & Adventure Park in Wiltshire stepped in to act as surrogate mothers.
The baby, who is only a month old, is being bottle fed around the clock by keepers who take it in turns to play mum.
Following a difficult birth, the tiny two-humped bactrian camel - named Myrtle by staff - was too weak to stand and feed from mother Bhali.
Despite repeated attempts she simply could not co-ordinate her gangly legs and keepers took the difficult decision to step in. Keeper Julie Scott says:
“Myrtle was simply unable to stand and get to her mum so it was crucial that someone take over the responsibility of looking after her. This meant feeding milk to Myrtle in sterilised bottles every four hours day and night. We’re not sure why Bhali rejected her but the fact that Myrtle could not physically get up to feed may have led her mum to think she was too weak to survive."
Despite being rejected by her mum, Myrtle has been adopted by another baby camel born earlier in the year who has taken it upon himself to act as her surrogate brother.
“Malcolm was born almost exactly a month before Myrtle and he has taken on the role of her protective older brother. The pair are pretty much inseparable and he’s definitely looking out for her,” added Julie.
Bactrian camels are critically endangered in the wild and Myrtle and Malcolm are among three babies born in the park this year in addition to the already eight-strong group headed up by Dougie, the breeding bull. Unlike their cousins the dromedaries, bactrian camels have two humps and are covered in thick fur to protect themselves from the sub-zero temperatures of their Mongolian homeland. Originally from the Gobi desert, bactrian camels are becoming increasingly endangered in the wild - their main threats being poachers and wolves. However large numbers have been domesticated and are kept by herdsmen in Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and China.