Get to Know Rae Rae & Kristina, Our Bactrian Camels

You know them, you love them, but let’s dig a bit deeper into the lives of Rae Rae and Kristina, Brookfield Zoo’s two Bactrian camels.

In today’s blog, we will learn more from those who work closely with Rae Rae and Kristina, namely the Chicago Zoological Society’s (CZS) Director of Nutrition, Vice President of Clinical Medicine, Curator of Mammals, and Senior Animal Care Specialist of the Mammal Department.


Bactrian camels, otherwise known as Camelus bactrianus, weigh about 1,500 lbs and can live up to 50 years of age. Bactrian camels like Rae Rae and Kristina seek habitats in deserts, grasslands, valleys, and canyons in mountainous areas of Mongolia, the Gobi Desert, and Western China where they enjoy an enriched diet.

Kristina, the elder of the two, is 16 years old and was born at the Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens. However, there is no place like home, and Kristina found hers at Brookfield Zoo soon after she was born.

Rae Rae, Kristina’s granddaughter, is 8 years old and was born at The Wilds in Ohio.

According to Bill Steele, Senior Animal Care Specialist of the Mammal Department, Kristina has a very relaxed personality whereas Rae Rae is a bit feistier. They both love each other dearly, as well as the Animal Care Specialists like Bill who work with them closely under the supervision of Joan Daniels, the Curator of Mammals.


Dr. Jennifer Watts, Director of Nutrition for CZS, ensures that Rae Rae and Kristina are healthy since she is familiar with the Bactrian camels’ diet after years of study.

“The base of [Rae Rae and Kristina’s] diet is mostly hay because they are herbivores,” Dr. Watts said. “They also get an herbivore pellet which has all of the amino acids and the vitamins and minerals in it so they have a balanced diet that the hay doesn’t provide. They get carrots and sweet potatoes which I am sure are their favorites, no doubt.”

While Dr. Watts plans the Bactrian camels’ diets, she also finds a less invasive way of measuring their health.

“We always need to make sure that they are at a healthy body weight,” Dr. Watts said. “I do quarterly, visual body check and assess their body condition. We also have them do quarterly weigh-ins on a scale.”

To learn more about animal nutrition at BZ, click here to watch our Bringing the Zoo To You chat with Dr. Watts.


Dr. Mike Adkesson, Vice President of Clinical Medicine for CZS, oversees any and all medical procedures of any animal species at the zoo. He frequently works with Rae Rae and Kristina.

“The Bactrian camels fall under the large animal category, so they receive an annual visual check-up,” Dr. Adkesson said. “We also speak with the Animal Care Staff and ask them how the animal is doing and if they are seeing any abnormal behaviors to ensure that there are no health concerns.”


Dr. Adkesson agrees that Bactrian camels have become an extremely rare species. Many may mistake one for a Dromedary camel. So how can we tell them apart?

“Bactrian camels have two humps that look like a ‘B’ and Dromedary camels have one hump that looks like a ‘D,’” said Dr. Adkesson.

So, the next time you see a camel, remember your ABCs!


Did you know that Bactrian camels spit?

“A lot of people are surprised that they spit as a defense mechanism,” Dr. Adkesson said. “Both camels and llamas are very prone to spitting at you if they are unhappy. They regurgitate up a little bit of stomach content, so it is an odoriferous-smelling spit that comes flying at you.”

Also, Bactrian camels like Rae Rae and Kristina grow thick winter coats and shed them in the summer months. To learn more about Bactrian camel grooming and see Kristina up close, watch our Bringing the Zoo to You featuring them here.

Is it cold? Is it hot? Bactrian camels are prepared for either! They can endure temperatures between -40 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bactrian camels are able to brave harsh environments like the Gobi Desert because of their three eyelids and two rows of eyelashes. These physical features enable them to protect their eyes during dust and snowstorms and carry on in their journey.


Unfortunately, Bactrian camels like Rae Rae and Kristina are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to habitat loss for farming and mining. With fewer than 1,000 left in the world, they are an extremely rare mammal species.

CZS works hard to reduce the probability of their extinction via conservation programs such as The Wild Camel Protection Foundation (WCPF). WCPF’s mission is to protect Bactrian camels, the 8th most endangered large mammal in the world, from extinction. To learn more about WCPF’s achievements, awards, groundbreaking scientific research, and how you can support their conservation efforts, click here.


Kristina is up for adoption here. She would love to have you as a Friend, Caregiver, Partner, Advocate, Guardian, or Champion. Click here to learn more about Animal Adoption at the zoo. We hope you come and visit Brookfield Zoo soon. Rae Rae and Kristina look forward to seeing you!

- Written by Olivia Sabalaskey

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Posted: 7/19/2021 12:46:39 PM by Sean Keeley

CZS & Brookfield Zoo

Since the opening of Brookfield Zoo in 1934, the Chicago Zoological Society has had an international reputation for taking a cutting-edge role in animal care and conservation of the natural world. Learn more about the animals, people, and research that make up CZS here at our blog.


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