Sheela, Henry Vilas Zoo camel with floppy hump, dies

MADISON, Wis. - A Henry Vilas Zoo resident has died, zoo officials said Tuesday. 

Henry Vilas Zoo Director Ronda Schwetz said the 25-year-old camel Sheela died. 

"It is with heavy hearts that we have said goodbye to our oldest Bactrian camel, Sheela," Schwetz said. 

Zoo spokeswoman Emily Lundquist saidSheela was euthanized.

"The decision was made to humanely euthanize Sheela after closely monitoring her quality of life in her elder years and discussing with the vet and animal care team," Lundquist wrote in an email. 

Sheela came to Madison in 1999 from the historic Zor Shrine camel rides, where she "helped many children have a direct connection with animals through her sweet demeanor," Schwetz said. 

Many guests recognized Sheela by her floppy hump, which contrary to popular myth, stores fat reserves rather than water.

The zoo is working with other institutions to help find a companion for Sheela's 15-year-old son, Shane Jr., nickamed "Booger," who remains at the zoo.

Bactrian camels are well adapted to Wisconsin’s weather, as their native habitat in Mongolia has a similar climate. Schwetz said the median life span of a Bactrian camel is 17.8 years.

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