Best Zoo Animal

Bactrian Camel

Tucked away in a dusty enclosure on the edge of the Saint Louis Zoo's Red Rocks zone, it's easy to overlook the Bactrian camel on a busy day. But take a long enough look at this stately (and critically endangered) animal, and you'll see that it's worth far more than the sum of its humps. That's because the Bactrian camel's secret lies in its stare, a milelong gaze deep into the soul that can be haunting for the uninitiated. Those who get lost in this camel's eyes will not see the witless expression of a pack animal; they will witness the wisdom of ages. This seemingly spiritual connection between man and beast was best exemplified by Elvis, a big hairy Bactrian who locked eyes with countless zoo patrons over the course of his 22 years. Sadly, Elvis died of natural causes on June 17, just weeks after the birth of his youngest calf, Presley. The king sired eight calves in ten years at the zoo, continuing an indomitable legacy that stretches back to ancient times. After all, another mighty monarch named Alexander the Great didn't get much farther than the desert kingdom of Bactria (now Afghanistan) on his quest to conquer the world. One can only wonder if he met the stare of a certain double-humped creature, whose eyes replied to the peerless general: "Turn back, mortal, for man can but glimpse the present, while the camel gazes into eternity."

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