Nature Field Note: Camels

Camels on the Giza Plateau

Introduction:

Do you all know where the Giza Plateau is?  This is exactly where I am while I write you this Field Note!  To find the Giza Plateau, take a map of Africa and find the very northeastern corner.  Can you all see where the Nile River flows into the Mediterranean Sea?  Now just find the city of Cairo and you all have found the Giza Plateau! 

A plateau is an area of land that is raised or elevated from its surrounding area.  Also, a plateau is very flat.  The Giza Plateau is a desert area with lots of sand and is a natural habitat of the camel.  I have loved interacting with so many camels on my journey so far. Let me share some information about these desert creatures with you!

What do these creatures look like? Where do they live?

As I just mentioned, deserts are the natural habitat, or typical place and environment, where camels live.  The Giza Plateau is located in a desert, so you will find many here!

Camels look kind of strange.  They look a bit like horses or llamas, but have a huge hump on their back.  Some camels have two humps!  These “humps” store fat for the camel. This fat storage is very important so camels can have energy if they aren’t near food or water for a long time.  This may happen frequently if they are wandering through a barren desert.

The Latin name for the type of camel that is in Egypt is Camelus dromedarius.  According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, camels are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Camelidae.  Are you all learning what those things mean in science class?  What an interesting way to classify all living beings! It has been a long time since I learned about classifying animals.  When I was in the fourth grade, science was my favorite class.  I’m excited to begin thinking scientifically again!

Did you know that camels are very strong?  They can carry 500 to 600 pounds!  Also, they can travel up to 30 miles a day.  Remember, this is without food or water!  Camels can range in color from light brown to a rusty, dark brown.  They have thick lips and powerful jaws with huge teeth.

How do they use their environment to survive?

So what makes camels so cool?  In my opinion, the answer to that question is that camels is that they can go for several days without drinking water!  I can’t imagine going one single day without water, especially when it is hot and dry like here in the desert of Egypt.

Camels have well-adapted feet with two toes that are very broad and flat.  This helps the camels to not sink into the sand when they are walking.   Their feet are very thick as well, so that the really hot sand doesn’t burn every step.  Another way that camels have adapted to their desert environment is something called valvular nostrils.  This means that their nose holes can close and open so that sand won’t enter into their lungs.  One night when I was in a sandstorm while riding a camel in the high hills of the Giza Plateau, I was thinking that I’d like this adaptation! There was sand everywhere!

Does this creature have an interesting history?

Camels have been domesticated for thousands of years.  Domestication is when humans use animals as pets, working, or riding. Some other examples of other domesticated animals here in Egypt are cats, donkeys and horses.  People here in Egypt use camels for milk, riding, work and even food!  Can you think of any other examples of domesticated animals around your city?

Can anything harm these animals?

Camels don’t really have anything to fear in the desert because there are no predators large enough to kill and eat them, except for humans.  However, humans typically only use camels for work and riding.  They really appreciate camels. One of my Egyptian friends named Islam told me, “If you drink the milk of a camel, your bones will be very strong.  Much stronger than if you drink the milk of a cow.”  I told Islam, “I think I’ll just stick to my favorite milk which comes from the coconut!” I’m not so sure about drinking camel’s milk! Would you try it?

How did I feel when I saw this creature?

Overall, my favorite animal that I’ve seen since I got to Egypt is the camel. Of course, when I got a chance to ride one, I wanted to become friends with him. When I hopped on, I said, “Hey there camel buddy!” The camel started making noises back at me like he knew that I was speaking to him!  It was hilarious.

I must admit that I was also slightly frightened whenever he made noises. The sounds camels make are unlike anything I have ever heard.  Imagine the sound of a cow mixed with the sounds of an elephant and a horse!  That is how I would describe camel noises. It’s quite alarming!

Another fascinating thing about camels in Egypt are the decorative saddles that people sit when they ride these creatures.  If you ever ride a camel, I hope you hold on tight! There aren’t any seat belts!  However, there is always a guide that is walking the camel with a rope so that nothing bad will happen.   So far, I haven’t fallen off a camel or seen someone fall off.

One time, I had an extra-fun time riding because my guide started to jog lightly.  As soon as the guide started jogging, the camel began jogging as well.  It was an extra bumpy ride on top of his hump!  I held on as tight as I could!

Some people don’t like camels because they think camels are too slow.  I asked my friend and tour guide, Mohammed, if he prefers camels or horses to ride.  Do you remember reading about Mohammed in my Daily Life Field Note?

Mohammed said to me, “I like my horse because I can gallop fast across the sand.”  I replied, “ Yes, but can your horse go days without water like my camel can?”  Mohammed replied, “Very smart point.”  I think camels are very cool because they are always going slow, steady, and strong.  Do you remember how many miles a camel can traverse in a single day?

P.S.

I found out many things about camels by searching online.  When you use information that you get from books, documentaries, or the internet you must do something called “citing” your work.  My works cited is as follows:

camel.The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2012. Encyclopedia.com. 15 Apr. 2013 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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