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Virginia man raises Mongolian camels in remote part of Tazewell Co.

The Lost World Ranch has 45 camels in its herd, perched in the highest valley in Virginia

September 21, 2010|Chris Hurst | Reporter

TAZEWELL CO., Va. — They call it "God's Thumbprint." Sitting high inside a mountian basin from the remains of an ancient seabed, Burkes Garden has a population of less than two hundred. They live in relative isolation, with little cell phone service and not even a post office or school. But retired doctor Bill Jurgelski is not alone; he has nearly fifty two humped Mongolian camels on his Lost World Ranch.

"The camels in my opinion come from a lost world," says Dr. Jurgelski. "And this in many ways is a lost world, Burke's Garden."

Dr. Jurgelksi came from New Jersey to Tazewell Co. and Richlands as a locum tenens doctor in an emergency room, filling in where he was needed. When he decided to retire he didn't go the normal route of taking up fishing or restoring an old car. After growing up on a farm, he wanted to raise llamas. But when he first started looking at llamas, one rancher had two camels, and the doctor fell in love.

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Dr. Jurgelski has run the Lost World Ranch for twelve years. He still thinks of them as a business venture, but so far, the camels haven't earned their keep.

"Everywhere the answer seems to be that there isn't any money in the economy," he says.

He has pages of literature on how his camels can be used for promotions and adversements. He's sent numerous letters to companies he thinks he can partner with, including a certain water bottle company with Camel in its name. But so far, no luck.

In the meantime, he and his small staff take a couple camels to fairs and carnivals and sell rides. But even that, he says, doesn't earn much.

What could make him some money is selling the camels, especially the pure white camels he has, which he says are quite rare.

"Which is difficult to do when you get attached to 'em," he says.

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