Red River Zoo Trains Camels for Veterinary Procedures

Zoo staff work with these intelligent animals during training sessions and close supervision

FARGO–┬áThe Red River Zoo is home to four Bactrian Camels who are not lacking in the personality category.

“They’re absolutely magnificent animals and great fun to work with,” Red River Zoo veterinarian Dr. Tom Colville said.

Zoo staff work with these intelligent animals during training sessions and close supervision.

“They’re learning all of the time,” Dr. Colville said. “They’re always watching us, they’re always paying attention to what’s going on. So, sometimes they’ll pick up a behavior that we’re not deliberately trying to teach them. They’ve just picked it up in the process.”

Their training prepares them for the vet who will need to draw blood and give them vaccinations.

To accomplish this, the zoo’s veterinarian makes regular physical contact with the camels so they aren’t alarmed when it’s time to administer a vaccine.

“We don’t want it to come as a complete surprise to them,” Dr. Colville said. “We want them to be used to us touching them and handling them.”

These camels are native to the Gobi Desert, which has a climate very similar to Fargo.

With a coat of fur keeping them warm in the winter, they spend their days outside and have the option to sleep inside the facility at night.

“We try to provide our animals with as many choices as possible so that they can have control and pick the things they need and want,” Red River Zoo animal curator Erin Teravskis said.

Qara, the youngest camel of the group, was born about 4 months ago.

Zoo staff at the Red River Zoo say that her new energy has brought a different type of charisma to the group.

“Nasan is kind of the protector of the group, looking out for any danger, anything that might threaten the family,” Teravskis said. “Amara is the mother so she’s important for taking care of the baby, and then Sadie kind of acts like a grandma, she’s an older female and she has had babies before.”

Both their intelligence and different personalities make each day at the zoo unique.

“I think I really enjoy working with camels because of their unique personalities, trying to figure out what each one wants and needs, because it’s a little bit different for each one, and providing them a really fabulous life here at the zoo,” Teravskis said.

The zoo is not expecting any more camels at this point.

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