On the heels of a long and bruising camel ride, Keith Bellows became fascinated with the "SUV of the sand," and with the many thorny aspects of their personalities (and mating habits) most of us would rather not dwell upon.

Why you should listen

As the former editor of National Geographic Traveler, Keith Bellows stepped away from the human aspects of travel for a moment to present one of his other fascinations: animal design. And not just the beautiful, photogenic aspects of that design either. After a harrowing breakdown in the Sahara with one water bottle to share among four people, Bellows was forced to make a rendezvous via camel ride, and became certain that this animal was, in addition to being a "mean son-of-a-bitch," the most perfectly designed creature on Earth.

Convinced by the organizers that bringing a live camel to the TED Conference was not a wise idea, Bellows did the next best thing, and drafted a National Geographic film crew to go to the Washington Zoo. They returned with a film of Suki, a 2,000-pound creature in the midst of rut, with shocking capabilities lurking in his spinning tail and rear-facing genitalia, all gleefully outlined in the film. But though this creature may seem unsavory, he's perfectly adapted to survival in the harshest environments around, and critical to the survival of the nomads that call the desert home.


Keith Bellows’ TED talk

More news and ideas from Keith Bellows

Celebrating the camel: Keith Bellows on TED.com

September 15, 2008

Keith Bellows gleefully (and profanely) outlines the engineering marvels of the camel, a vital creature he calls “the SUV of the desert.” Though he couldn’t bring a live camel to TED, he gets his National Geographic camera crew as close as humanly possible to a one-ton beast in full rut. (Recorded February 2002 in Monterey, […]

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