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The Bowmanville Zoo is always looking for better ways to manage animals, and to share that knowledge with other zoos, the scientific community, and the world at large. Right now, the zoo is supporting a study of stress levels in camels, led by graduate student Yasmine Majchrzak of Trent University.

In addition to the challenges of managing camels in captivity, a better understanding of camel behavior and physiology is needed to address the extensive (and increasing) use of camels throughout the Middle East and Africa. There are an estimated 10 million to 15 million domesticated camels in this region, which play an important role in culture, economics, and daily life.

Our goal is to create protocols which zoos, and private and commercial owners can follow in order to manage camels in a way that ensures a high level of animal welfare.

Majchrzak has developed a new technique to measure cortisol levels (an indicator of stress) in camel saliva. This makes it easier to measure stress levels on an ongoing basis – much easier than taking blood samples, a process which in and of itself can increase stress.

Results will be published in 2014.

 

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Above, Majchrzak takes a saliva sample from one of the camels at the zoo.