Page last updated at 09:49 GMT, Monday, 29 December 2008

Camel gets new pal for Christmas

Wacker and Marmaduke
Marmaduke (right) has come from Welsh Mountain Zoo

One camel certainly did not get the hump this Christmas when he received the perfect present - a new friend.

The arrival of Marmaduke the camel at Marwell Zoo, in Hampshire, means long-serving resident Wacker is no longer alone.

Wacker's keepers' had been trying to find him a companion after Tabitha, his friend of 17 years, passed away.

Welsh Mountain Zoo answered the call and Marmaduke arrived at the zoo near Winchester in time for Christmas.

The nine-month-old Bactrian camel, from the zoo at Colwyn Bay, is half Wacker's height of 8ft (2.44m) and at 441lbs (200kg) it will take the youngster several years before he matches Wacker's one tonne (1,000kg) weight.

'Nuzzling up'

At 20 years old, Wacker is one of Marwell's oldest residents and is already helping the young Marmaduke to feel at home, zoo staff said.

Simon Hawker, head keeper for the camels, said: "Despite their large age gap they are getting on really well and are enjoying getting to know to each other.

"Within hours of meeting, the two camels were nuzzling up to each other and Wacker has now taken on the role of uncle to Marmaduke and enjoys looking after him.

"I'm sure this has helped Marmaduke settle in so quickly."

Wild Bactrian camels live in small groups and are adapted to life in the harsh Gobi and Gashun Gobi Deserts, two of the most hostile regions on the planet.

They have a double row of long eyelashes and hairs inside the ears to help protect against damage from sand.

Wild Bactrian camels have been heavily hunted for their meat.

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