Note from Stuart: Zazoo is a wonderful camel, a real member of the equally wonderful Goforth / MacRitchie family of Northern California. It’s been a pleasure getting to know Zazoo. He’s such an interesting, loveable and honorable “person” and has been yet another teacher for me, about camels, myself and life…
My Bactrian camel, Zazoo, was given to me by a boyfriend in 1995 when he was just 8 weeks old. I’m not involved with that man now. Today, my husband, Andrew, teases that I got rid of the boyfriend but now he’s inherited the 45 year commitment. Zazoo has always been a good judge of character and makes no bones about it. In truth, Zazoo picked Andrew for me. I have always had land for Zazoo but his choice was to consistently hang out in my back yard close enough to see us when he peered through the windows of the house. He especially liked to stare through our kitchen window every morning until we came out to greet him for the day. Zazoo is quite sensitive and came to expect to be treated as one of the family. My friend’s two year old child ran screaming and jumping right into Zazoo’s area. She went right in under his belly and around his legs. Zazoo stood perfectly still and just calmly looked at me. He had everything under control and has always loved babies and children.
I have been criticized through the years for not “properly training” Zazoo. I was not about to crush his spirit and sensitivity or damage his sense of humor. I was told that in order to teach him to “cush”, I needed a ring through his nose and a ring attached to a concrete slab so I could connect a rope and coerce him to sit. I could never stand the thought of forceful training and know now that I made the right decision in waiting for Stuart.
We found the Sacred Camel Gardens on the internet and met Stuart Camps. After seeing his herd and understanding the kindness and respect he uses with the camels, I asked for assistance from Stuart to instill manners and teach boundaries with Zazoo. We arrived at the Sacred Camel Gardens and Zazoo did not want to get out of the trailer. He paced and paced without comprehension that we were even there. Stuart identified that Zazoo was the new kid on the block and we chose to keep him outside the main herd for a time in his own enclosure. When I drove off I felt like I was leaving my child in a strange place with people he did not know. Zazoo had never been around other camels and had always been with me. He was fretful at the sight of other camels! He was unsure of the new smells and huge animals before him. When I came back the following week, he had worn a thin path in his coral, lost considerable weight and seemed edgy.
I have never been away from Zazoo and feel the heaviness of heart and great guilt every time I drive out of Stuarts place. After time, I was comforted by the fact that Zazoo and Stuart developed a genuine friendship and like one another. I knew he would be cared for. Stuart was a stranger who quickly became adored by our family, and most importantly Zazoo. I had to learn to speak his language and Stuart has taught me to have a “conversation” that Zazoo and I can both understand. Zazoo and our family have learned a lot from Stuart. Zazoo finally has proper manners and we gained a lifelong friend in Stuart. Zazoo has become more mature and confident and much to my dismay, eventually made his own choice to be in with the herd.
Zazoo has a big heart and is connected to us. We originally discussed a training period of three months. Zazoo has been at the Sacred Camel Gardens for a long 2.5 years now. Zazoo is at home with Stuart and the camels. He seems content and wiser.
The lifetime personal commitment, hard work through thick and thin, happy and sad, has been Stuart’s life’s work.
None of us knows what it’s like to maintain leadership of a herd, perform husbandry duties including but not limited to, surgery, hold a newborn baby camel, watch the mother die and then bottle feed the baby day and night. Only to do this again and not lose direction in his perseverance for the betterment of the camels’ happiness and well-being. We have had adventures with Stuart and Sacred Camel Gardens. They speak for themselves. The camels here are happy and at peace. It is an uncommon experience to be able to be with a large herd of camels and relax among them.
After seeing Stuart engage a very rambuncous camel bull at another facility and draw him into doing what he asked, inspired me further to help. Stuart is the voice for the camels. I feel we must support Stuart and the camels. The future of the world’s camel population partially depends on continued education and care of our domesticated Bactrians. Stuart is in great need of assistance with the herd he cares for. He needs hands-on help and financial donations to facilitate optimum health and care needed. Veterinary facilities, stables, shelters, barns and a training arena would make his work a little easier. As there is no electricity at the Sacred Camel Gardens, a solar power set up is needed. A water well in case of drought is also important to develop.
Camels are often misunderstood. They are, by nature, intelligent, respectful, gentle, creatures. They respond well when treated with dignity and kindness.
Bactrian camels have been classified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Zazoo, or “Handsome”, as Cyndi likes to call him is the most pampered hairy beast known to mankind. But like all spoiled children, manners was not in his vocabulary. Zazoo has been known to flatten fences just to sample the latest vintage alfalfa. Turn your back on him and he is eating the shirt right off your back. Well, this is him on his best behavior – when he really wants attention he has been known to gallop down country roads with Cyndi in tow. All this must seem quite normal to him as he has had no leadership or guidance from a real herd. So upon internet investigation we came across the Sacred Camel Gardens and Stuart, and what for Zazoo we call the ‘Camel Finishing School’.
Upon meeting Stuart you immediately get a sense of calm deep waters. Stuart is a dark horse and just looking at him interacting with great creatures one realizes he is a force to be reckoned with. Everest, the most magnificent camel I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, would follow Stewart like a regimental sergeant major inspecting the troops. Wow, what respect. Maybe there is hope for “Dopey”, oops, I mean Zazoo, I thought.
Irena, our daughter, loves Stuart and has labeled him the “man in the thin black hat”. Well, all this has happened before Stuart opened his mouth. Watch out here comes the Australian accent! Now it all becomes clear to me to train a Bactrian camel you have to be born in Papua New Guinea, grow up with headhunters, move to Australia, and then later move to Clearlake (California) and be in touch with your faith to the Nth degree beyond most believers and still command a presence that I have spent a life-time trying to emulate. This is what it takes to be the leader of the herd and if it’s good enough for Everest at 3000 pounds who am I not to concur.
Well, along we come with Zazoo, and to be honest he is from the right side of the tracks so as we let Zazoo out of the trailer he smells 17 other Bactrians and immediately does a u-turn and crawls back into the trailer. These 17 are a tough bunch and all rush the fence line to inspect the new chap. About an hour later and after several flakes of premium alfalfa, Zazoo steps out nonchalantly, like trying to be cool. Fat chance, the heard have his number and press in closer. Stuart in his wisdom decides to keep Zazoo on the outside, much to Cyndi’s relief. At this point you might surmise that Zazoo is a minnow in a large new pond and school is about to begin.
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