John Hare FRGS, explorer, conservationist and author was, in 1957, the very last recruit into Her Majesty‚ Overseas Administrative Service in Northern Nigeria.
Later John Hare worked in Kenya for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). During this time he undertook a number of expeditions into remote parts of northern Kenya, travelling all the time with camels and frequently alone. This kindled a life-long passion for camels.
The Wild Camel
In 1993, he took advantage of a chance offer from a Russian scientific team to research the status of the wild camel in Mongolia – the 8th most endangered large mammal in the world. The wild camel is a critically endangered species numbering no more than 1000, and only survives in the Gobi desert in China and Mongolia. Presenting his research findings in 1994 at an international conference in Ulaan Baator, John Hare received, in 1995, permission to enter the former nuclear test site of China. where the wild camel survives. No foreigner had been allowed to enter this vast salt water desert for 45 years. It is here that the wild camel, having survived 43 atmospheric nuclear tests, is also able to tolerate salt water with a higher salt content than sea water.
The Gobi Desert – China’s Nuclear Test Site
In 1995 and 1996 John Hare became the first foreigner to cross the Gashun Gobi Desert in China from north to south and to reach the ancient city of Lou Lan from the east. John Hare‚ his team discovered a hitherto undiscovered outpost of Lou Lan called Tu-ying on the Middle Silk Road. In 1999, on another expedition mounted on camels, John Hare’s team discovered two unmapped valleys deep in the Gobi sand dunes, which contained wildlife that had never seen or experienced man.
The Wild Camel Protection Foundation and the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve
In 1997, John Hare with Kathryn Rae founded the Wild Camel Protection Foundation (WCPF), a UK registered charity‚ Dr. Jane Goodall DBE is the Life Patron‚ and having raised funding, put forward proposals with the WCPF co-managing trustee, Kathryn Rae, for the establishment of the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve in Xinjiang Province in the former nuclear test site, to which the Chinese government agreed. Measuring 155,000 square kilometres and almost the size of Bulgaria or Texas, the WCPF became responsible for helping the Chinese to establish one of the largest nature reserves in the world, protecting not only the wild Bactrian camel but many other IUCN Red Book listed endangered fauna and flora. John Hare is the sole international consultant for the Reserve.
Crossing the Sahara
In 2001/2002 Hare crossed the Sahara Desert from Lake Chad to Tripoli, a journey of 1500 miles, which lasted three-and-a-half months, to raise awareness for the wild camel. This route had not been followed in its entirety by a foreigner since Sir Hans Vischer negotiated it 100 years earlier. This journey was undertaken to raise funding and awareness of the plight of the wild Bactrian camel.
Around Lake Turkana (Rudolph) with Camels
In 2006 John Hare made the first recorded complete circumambulation by camel of Lake Turkana (Rudolph), in Kenya. At the northern tip of the lake this involved swimming 22 camels across the fast-flowing River Omo in Ethiopia. In 2005 and 2006 made two more expeditions into the Chinese and Mongolian Gobi desert, on domestic Bactrian camels.
The Captive Wild Camel Breeding Centre in Mongolia
In 2004 the WCPF established the Hunter Hall Captive Wild Camel Breeding Centre at Zakhyn Us in Mongolia with twelve wild camels, which had been captured by Mongolian herdsmen. This is the only place where the wild camel is held in captivity apart from two zoos in China and in 2010 the population had increased to twenty-five. With advice from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), there is a plan to undertake the first release of the captive wild camels back into the Gobi desert.