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Wednesday, January 21, 1998 Published at 12:00 GMT


Meet Rama the cama ...
image: [ Scientists have crossed a camel with a llama ]
Scientists have crossed a camel with a llama

What do you get when you cross a camel with a llama? The answer is a cama.

Animal researchers in the United Arab Emirates say they have successfully managed to breed one.

[ image: The cama has cloven hooves, like a llama]
The cama has cloven hooves, like a llama
The cama, born last week, has the short ears and long tail of a camel, but no hump. It has the cloven hooves of a llama.

Camels are renowned for being one of nature's least even-tempered creatures.

The cama's owners hope he will have more wool than a camel and a better temperament.

Scientist Lulu Skidmore talks to BBC Radio 4 about the new arrival (1'56")
The animal, which took two years to produce, was born at Dubai's Camel Reproduction Centre, and weighed 5.5kg.

And for a creature supposedly born of two widely different species, the world's first cama seems remarkably healthy.

[ image: Camels and llamas are an unlikely match]
Camels and llamas are an unlikely match
The animal, called Rama, has been tottering happily around its desert nursery, 40km from Dubai.

Its parents appear at first glance to be a poor match.

Mother is a 75 kg llama, a pack animal normally found in South America. and the father is a camel, weighing a hulking 450 kg.

[ image: Rama's father weighs six times as much as his mother]
Rama's father weighs six times as much as his mother
Lulu Skidmore, technical director of Dubai's Camel Reproduction Centre, told the BBC that the aim of the cross-breeding was initially a scientific one.

Funded by the Crown Prince of Dubai, General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the researchers wanted to see if two species seperated for 30 million years could be joined together by artifical insemination.

Dr Skidmore said that the resulting offspring could prove stronger than a llama, yet more manageable than a camel.

[ image: Rama may have more wool and a better temperament than a camel]
Rama may have more wool and a better temperament than a camel
If it survives to adulthood, there are hopes it might become the ideal pack animal.

She said the next stage was to see if the cross-fertilisation would work the other way round. She said the centre was now nurturing a camel mother, pregnant by a llama father.

The birth is expected in May or June, when scientists will be keen to know exactly what sort of animal is forthcoming.

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