Happy birthday, Caramel!

Posted 26 Mar 2024 in Edinburgh Zoo

Three Bactrian camels looking directly at the camera [eye contact] IMAGE: Phoebe Dowens 2024

Highland Wildlife Park is currently home to three camels, nine-year-olds Dierdre and Dippy, and our eldest, Caramel who is 21.  

Bactrian camels, the kind we have here at the park, have two humps while Dromedary camels have one hump. An easy way to remember this is to that Bactrian humps look like a ‘B’ and Dromedary humps look like a ‘D’!

In 2004 Caramel moved from ZSL Whipsnade Zoo to Edinburgh Zoo with her mum Holly. She was only a one-year-old at the time and together they joined the zoo’s male camel Karnali. Shortly after their arrival Holly gave birth to another calf, K’Hara.  

After an excellent five years at the zoo, Caramel, her sister K’hara and male Karnali moved up to their new home here at Highland Wildlife Park.

Our current girls Dippy and Dierdre joined Caramel in 2021 from West Midlands Safari Park and the three of them can be spotted happily exploring their paddock (which we call the arable) with four yak. They’re usually one of the first (or last) things you’ll see when you visit the park, as their field is in the entrance/exit drive-through reserve.  

Something that makes me feel old, is the fact I have worked with Caramel for 20 years! As a keeper at Edinburgh Zoo when she arrived in 2004, and at the park with her since her move in 2009.  

Caramel is a sensitive and gentle animal, she’s unsure of any changes initially and will always let the others investigate first, but she always comes around in the end.  

Despite being more nervous than Dierdre and Dippy, she’s always interested in what we keepers are up to - mostly in the hope she’ll get some treats! Caramel loves her food, even after she has had her breakfast in her stable she will go out looking to see if the yaks have any leftovers or if there’s any unattended snacks in the back of the keeper van.  

She’s not picky with food either, she loves everything from her pellets to browse (pine bark, willow leaves, rosebay willow herb) and even the odd carrot.

She hasn’t let being an older lady stop her from running about in her paddock and even doing the odd jump and kicking her legs out when she’s feeling playful or cheeky.  

It is amazing to think that Caramel is already 21-years-old. How time has flown, for the both of us! I am so lucky to have the job I do and to have worked with an amazing variety of species but having the privilege to work with an individual for 20 years is truly amazing. Knowing that I and other keepers over the years have given Caramel the best care and letting her be herself in her own silly way is an honour.

You can visit Caramel and the other Bactrian camels in the park’s entrance/exit reserve. Book tickets online to save highlandwildlifepark.org.uk/tickets.

Debbie Barclay  

Experienced animal keeper at Highland Wildlife Park