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The Lost Khulan In The Gobi - World Wildlife Day Mongolia

World Wildlife Day Mongolia

On December 20, 2013, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) designated March 3rd as UN World Wildlife Day, coinciding with the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973. This significant day serves as a global platform to celebrate and advocate for the conservation of the world’s diverse wildlife and plant species.

In Mongolia, we mark World Wildlife Day by engaging with Anne Camille Souris from Association Goviin Khulan, a vital NGO that we work in long-term partnership together with on Mongolian conservation and research expedition. At the heart of their mission lies the preservation of the Mongolian khulan and its natural habitat. Through our annual discussions with Anne-Camille, we gain insights into the challenges and successes of environmental protection efforts in Mongolia.

Two Mongolian Wild Ass (Khulan) in Mongolia's southern Gobi

Two Mongolian Wild Ass (Khulan) in Mongolia’s southern Gobi


World Wildlife Day Mongolia: What Is A Khulan? 

The Mongolian Khulan (Equus hemionus hemionus) holds a crucial position as one of the five recognized subspecies of the Asiatic Wild Ass, representing a significant population within Mongolia. Despite legal protections and conservation efforts, this species faces various threats, including illegal hunting and trade, climate change-induced habitat loss, infrastructural developments like railways, competition with domestic livestock for resources, and the expansion of mining activities.


 

According to Anne-Camille, the main threats that affect wildlife in Mongolia are:

‘…illegal hunting and trade (for meat, skin and traditional medicine), climate change which is impacting on wildlife habitat and availability of natural resources (including water), the current railway which is limiting movements of some migratory species (such as Mongolian gazelle, black-tailed gazelle and Mongolian khulan but as a good start about 100km of fences has been removed in the Gobi area), the competition with domestic livestock to access to natural resources, especially in the Gobi where the resources are rarer, and an increasing number of mining sites that could disturb wildlife and have an impact on the water sources and land if not properly managed.’

A Tarbagan marmot is captured in this image as it keeps an eye out for predators amongst the Mongolian steppe

A Tarbagan marmot is captured in this image as it keeps an eye out for predators amongst the Mongolian steppe

This NGO adopts an interactive, people-centered approach to conservation—an innovative strategy that integrates various disciplines and prioritizes the needs, challenges, and cultural nuances of the local communities. Emphasising the wealth of local knowledge, this approach actively engages the regional population of the southeast Gobi, including both protected area rangers and local communities primarily in Dorngobi Aimag. Anne-Camille’s motivation to incorporate people-centered conservation stems from recognising that sustainable conservation efforts can only thrive when local communities are directly involved.

‘…the protection of endangered/threatened species and their habitat can be efficient in the long-term only if the local community is directly involved in conservation activities, if conservation education is implemented in the area and if the local community can benefit from the conservation activities and understand how the community can also benefit from the protection of local wild species and their habitat. ‘
This is Batsaikhan - local protected area ranger of Baga Gazriin Chuluu in Mongolia's middle Gobi

This is Batsaikhan – local protected area ranger of Baga Gazriin Chuluu in Mongolia’s middle Gobi

Through its expeditions and long-term conservation tourism programme, Association Goviin Khulan aims to achieve multiple objectives. Firstly, they seek to diversify income sources and provide support to members of the communities where AGK operates. Additionally, they aspire to establish a Community Grant and a Conservation Fund, fueled by financial contributions from the expeditions. These funds will be directed towards supporting conservation education, professional capacity building, and research activities undertaken by AGK.

Moreover, the organisation endeavors to leverage these expeditions as platforms to raise both local and international awareness about the importance of protecting wildlife and their natural habitats in the Gobi region. Looking ahead, Anne Camille envisions a future where collaborative efforts lead to increased conservation-mindedness and stakeholder engagement, accompanied by enhanced support for protected area rangers, ecological patrols, and NGOs actively involved in wildlife and nature preservation.

‘…more conservation-minded people and more stakeholders working together to protect Mongolian biodiversity, as well more technical and financial support provided to protected areas rangers, ecological police patrols and NGOs that are working in the field to enhance wildlife and nature protection’

Recognising the pivotal role of education in conservation, Association Goviin Khulan has developed “The Lost Khulan of The Gobi,” a bilingual conservation-focused book illustrated by Mongolian artist Zolbootulguldur O. This book, which narrates the story of two children aiding a lost baby khulan, serves as a valuable educational tool. Following the story, readers will discover a chapter with scientific insights about the Mongolian khulan, providing a deeper understanding of this remarkable species. Additionally, there is another chapter dedicated to offering practical advice on how individuals can contribute to the protection of this endangered species and its fragile habitat. The book is utilised by local partners and educational institutions to promote awareness and understanding of the Mongolian khulan and conservation issues among children and communities.

Anu Naran – a young, Mongolian contemporary artist and a friend of Association Goviin Khulan – has designed artwork beautifully illustrated with a female Mongolian khulan and its foal which are used to decorate products sold by Association Goviin Khulan in support of their conservation and research program including the protection of the Khulan and the ecosystem of the Gobi. Have a look at their online shop as the gifts are perfect for anyone who loves art or wildlife.

“The Lost Khulan of The Gobi” has been utilised by the Wildlife Conservation Society Mongolia and Говийн бага дархан цаазат газар, a local partner of Association Goviin Khulan, during a community awareness event held in the Khanbogd community of the southeast Gobi. Furthermore, it has been included in the ‘nature education trunk’ initiative in the Khanbogd and Sainshand regions. Notably, copies of the book have been generously distributed to families engaged in the khulan conservation program, to the dedicated staff of the Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area ‘B,’ and to local schoolchildren. Additionally, the English teacher of a local school extended an invitation to AGK to conduct a presentation on Mongolian khulan for the students, further amplifying the reach and impact of this educational resource.

If you’re inspired to support this commendable initiative on World Wildlife Day, consider visiting the Association Goviin Khulan Facebook page to learn more and contribute to the conservation education efforts aimed at protecting Mongolia’s khulan. Alternatively, to learn more about how you can join us in supporting the valuable work of Association Goviin Khulan, please visit the following link: Mongolian Conservation and Research Expedition – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/mongolian-conservation-and-research-expedition/

Jess @ Eternal Landscapes

Jessica Brooks
Jessica Brooks
I'm Jess Brooks, the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia and the voice behind EL's blog posts. For more than a decade, since 2006, I've been based in Mongolia, working closely with my beloved Mongolian team to advocate for a tourism approach that brings about positive change.. What sets our blog apart is our deep understanding of Mongolia—our home. Unlike content from influencers or creators, our posts prioritise authenticity and firsthand knowledge as guiding principles.
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