Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Desert critters, hybrids, rescue animals lead a happy life at Yuma's Camel Farm


The Camel Farm near Yuma, Ariz., is devoted to preserving animals rare to the area for families, school groups, tourists. 

Zedonk or zonkeys are a mix of zebra and donkey, part of the menagerie.

YOU HAVE to see it to believe it.
More than 250  animals representing over 30 species are happily co-existing.
The unusual setting is The Camel Farm, 10 miles south of Yuma, Ariz. The idea grew from enterprising entrepreneur and farmer Ben Standley and  his sister Carol.  She had bought the land with her Middle-Eastern husband, intending to breed Arabian horses.
"BUT THAT DIDN'T pan out," says Ben, "when the bottom fell out of that market."
Each critter's cage has an information plaque which describes the animal.
The kinkajou is a  delicate rain forest animal. 
The improvisational farm's menagerie includes ibex and wallaroos -- large kangaroo -- tortoise and goats, zebra, lambs, ponies, mules, donkeys and hybrids. Ostriches, rhea and emus stretch and preen. A tiny rainforest creature, the kinkajou, looks content. This lovely, delicate rainforest creature, also called a honey bear, sports a plush, velvety coat and is a favorite at the place.
ANIMAL CARETAKER and groundsman Lance Baker loves them all -- this multi-continental mix. He pets, scratches and talks to them as he feeds them and cleans their cages.
Ibex with their splendid curved horns lead a peaceful life at Camel Farm.
"The Camel Farm has grown through 16 years to become a popular destination," says Baker. Schools sponsor day trips, Marines from the nearby military base come for outings. Tourists spot advertising in hotels -- as we did -- and visit the 40 acre haven. Follow the palm trees and head south of Yuma 14 miles and you'll find it. Baker is a former circus and carnival worker, raised on a farm in Oklahoma.
This is his second year with the operation and he's doing a fine job, says Ben.
"THE FIRST year we had 200 people and we had 13,000 last year," says Ben, who came to Arizona from a logging career in Oregon.  His love of nature is the obvious drive for his devotion to the operation, which accepts rescue birds and animals, caring for and rehabilitating them. All critters are veterinary inspected, vaccinated and treated.
THE PALM-LINED entrance evokes a "Midnight at the Oasis" feeling -- even in mid-day. Camels snooze beneath the healthy looking palm trees, casting a weary eye at onlookers before getting up slowly to make a closer inspection.  "Four of them  are a good 30 to 33 years old," says Ben. At one time the place had more than 60 camels, but they have not been replaced as the females pass away and breeding slows.
A curious, bright-eyed hedgehog lets us carefully hold him.
Ben Standley operates The Camel Farm.
Groundskeeper and "animal whisperer" Lance Baker enjoys his job.
He estimates that 300 baby camels have been born at the place, some of them sold to the movies in Los Angeles -- not far away. And while there are hybrids on the place, there are purebreds, too. Jack, the farm's proud male Sicilian miniature donkey, was recently bred with another Sicilian miniature donkey.
A coati -- somewhat like a raccoon but more slender and longer -- munches watermelon as we stroll.
"Lilian..." returns to Montana, click here
ANOTHER FACET of the operation is the Camel Farm's annual participation in living nativity displays in Arizona and California.
Animals, props and scenery are painstakingly transported as far as Santa Barbara, for church and community festivals and ceremonies.
Birds are an important part of the project, too. Mandarin ducks live on the property, as well as rescue birds from neighbors.
It's a great place! tlstandley.wix.com/the-camel-farm.
Who is this man, 28 years a magic maker of flowers and bouquets? Find out next at www.whereiscookie.com

UP NEXT: An unusual flower shop, Sweet Floral, transports us from northern San Diego to the streets of Rome or Venice. Find out about Sweet Floral in Sorrento Valley. And catch us Wednesdays and weekends at www.whereiscookie.com Remember to explore, learn and live.


  1. Lemon Grove Road WarriorMay 14, 2015 at 12:49 PM

    We KNOW this wacky, wonderful place.
    It's like going to another planet.
    What fun to find it in this enjoyable blog. We also saw a nativity in Santa Barbara with animals from The Camel Farm. Fun stuff.

  2. I am not a big fan of zoos, but love animals. I like the sound of this wide open place, and can see that the care and nurturing is of high quality. Nice reporting and photos.