The Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus ferus) is uniquely adapted to the deserts of China and Mongolia. It was domesticated about 3000 years ago but the wild Bactrian camel is endangered with less than 1000 remaining in China. We observed the foraging behaviour of 10 domestic Bactrian camels (Alashan) in a Haloxylon ammodendron C.A. Mey desert of Inner Mongolia. The Alashan Bactrian camel is one of about four breeds of the species found in the western part of Inner Mongolia. In each season, plant species selection was observed for each camel over three, 10-min periods at morning, noon and night and their primary activities were recorded over a period of 17.6, 19.2, 18.5, and 17.2 h in winter, spring, summer and autumn, respectively. Forage intake was estimated by mimicking bite size for each species and extrapolating to the total time spent grazing. Plant species preferences were calculated from estimates of their relative utilization and availability. The number of species contributing to the camels' diet in winter, spring, summer, and autumn were 5, 6, 7, and 8, respectively. No seasonal differences (P<0.05) were detected in forage intake, faecal output, or apparent digestibility. The Bactrian camels switched their diet from a senesced forb, Agriophyllum squarrosum (L.) Moq., in winter to the shrub H. ammodendron in spring, and to an increasing dependence on perennial and annual herbaceous species in autumn. H. ammodendron was the dominant species in this desert community and was utilized in each season. Camels are dependent on a yearlong forage supply from a fragile environment, which can readily be damaged without careful management.
|Publication Title||Applied Animal Behaviour Science|
|Author Address||College of Ecology and Environmental Science, Inner Mongolia Agricultural University, Hohhot, Inner Mongolia 010018, China.email@example.com|
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