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The Lost Khulan In The Gobi - World Wildlife Day Mongolia

World Wildlife Day Mongolia

On 20 December 2013, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed 3 March – the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973 – as UN World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants.

Each year, to honour World Wildlife Day in Mongolia,  I speak to Anne Camille Souris of the Association Goviin Khulan a small NGO that we work in long-term partnership together with on Mongolian conservation and research expedition. Environmental safeguarding and protection are taking place at a grass-roots level in Mongolia, and the Association Goviin Khulan NGO is at the forefront of this grassroots approach – working to protect the khulan and its natural habitat. This post gets updated and refreshed on an annual basis and below are excerpts from our 2022 and 2023 conversations.

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

What Is A Khulan?

The Mongolian Khulan (Equus hemionus hemionus) is one of the 5 recognized sub-species of the Asiatic Wild Ass and represents the largest population of this species in the world. As a result, Mongolia is an important place for the conservation of this species. The Mongolian Khulan is legally protected and listed as Rare in the Mongolian Red Book as Near Threatened in the ICUN Red List of Threatened Species – although until recently it was listed as Endangered.

 

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

This NGO practice interactive people-centred conservation – a multidisciplinary and innovative approach that takes into consideration the needs, difficulties, and culture of the local area,  focuses on the local knowledge available and directly involves the regional population of the southeast Gobi (both protected area rangers and the local communities mainly in Dorngobi Aimag). Anne-Camille was motivated to include people-centered conservation in the areas where AGK works because:

‘…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

Through the expeditions and long-term conservation tourism programme that Association Goviin Khulan runs, they hope to help diversify the income sources and support of the members of the community where AGK works. They also hope to create a Community Grant and a Conservation Fund generated from the financial contributions collected from the expeditions with the Conservation Fund being used to support the conservation education, professional capacity building and research activities of AGK. They also hope that the expeditions will help raise local and international awareness about the protection of wildlife and their natural habitat in the Gobi. In the future, Anne Camille hopes to see:

‘…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’

 

Anne Camille Souris also understands that the long-term success of a conservation project of an endangered species starts with educating the younger members of society.  As part of their educational programme, the Association Goviin Khulan has written and published a conservation-based book The Lost Khulan of The Gobi with illustrations by talented Mongolian artist Zolbootulguldur O. The funds of this book go back into conservation education carried out by the organisation in Mongolia and the book is being used to help promote awareness of the issues surrounding the Mongolian Khulan.

The story takes place in the Mongolian Gobi Desert, where two children, Tuya and Javkhlan, found a lost baby khulan … How can they help their new friend to get back home? It’s a bilingual book so can be read by both Mongolian and international children. And after the story there’s a chapter with some scientific facts about the Mongolian khulan and another chapter with advice on how to help protect this threatened species and its habitat.

It’s been used by the Wildlife Conservation Society Mongolia and Говийн бага дархан цаазат газар (which is one of Association Goviin Khulan’s local partners) during a local awareness day arranged in the Khanbogd community in the south-east Gobi. It is also part of the ‘nature education trunk’ to the region of Khanbogd and Sainshand. Copies of the book have been donated to families who are involved in the khulan conservation program, to staff of the Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area ‘B’ as well as local schoolchildren at a school where the English teacher of this school invited AGK to do a presentation about the Mongolian khulan to the students.

If you’re interested in supporting this wonderful concept  – a book written with children in mind to help educate about the protection and conservation of one of Mongolia’s key wildlife species – for World Wildlife Day – then this is the link to The Lost Khulan In The Gobi Facebook page.

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. 

 

For more on how you can join us on and help us to support the work of Association Goviin Khulan, follow this link – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/mongolian-conservation-and-research-expedition/

Jess @ Eternal Landscapes

Jessica Brooks
Jessica Brooks
I’m Jess Brooks. I am the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia - a registered Mongolian business and social travel enterprise that focuses on providing travellers with a real 21st Century insight into Mongolia. I have been based in Mongolia since 2006 and together with my beloved Mongolian team, we focus on tourism that makes a positive difference. I'm also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society - awarded for my work in Mongolia and a published guidebook author - having worked together with World Adventure Guides to produce a digital interactive guide to Mongolia. http://www.jessbrooks.co.uk/
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