A Step Forward for Conservation in Mongolia?

Balanced between the Russian and Chinese superpowers, both of which are mineral- and energy- hungry, Mongolia is rich in resources. Three million people share a landmass one-sixth the size of the United States. Because of the sparseness of the population, several of its ecosystems are complex enough to host rare and endangered large mammal species. Wild camels, for example — distinct from their domesticated cousins used for transport and food — shyly evade human contact in southern Mongolia. An aboriginal herding tradition is surviving even as it changes. Even though dirt bikes (rather than horses) are often used for herding, for example, traditional grazing and hunting routes are still used because the land is not parceled into private property.

Horses and a motorcycle-mounted herder cross the steppe.
Herders use motorized vehicles and animals interchangeably even as they try to preserve traditional practices.
At a haircutting ceremony, the Daah Urgeeh, aboriginal traditions are kept alive.

Even domesticated animals roam wide swaths of land. Uninterrupted by the fences and barbed wire that are so ubiquitous in the US West that we hardly notice them anymore, the Mongolian steppe stretches the imaginations of outsiders.

The proposed addition to Gobi B at Ulaan Hyar would gain additional protections.

The contest over land use in Mongolia will have major impact on species survival, as well as geopolitical importance for the Chinese and Russian economies. This November and December, the Mongolian parliament is discussing whether to almost double the size of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, from around 900,000 hectares more than 1,500,000. In Western Mongolia, the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area is the only protected area of the Dzungarian Gobi. This summer, we traveled to the Gobi protected areas with Ganbaatar Oyunsaikhan,…

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