3 March 2015

World Wildlife Day - Mongolian Wildlife Protection

March 3rd is World Wildlife Day. This year’s World Wildlife Day is themed around endangered species and the ever growing need to protect them. 

And, as it's always good to have a little historical perspective! From the United Nations website:

'On 20 December 2013, the Sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly decided to proclaim 3 March as World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora. The date is the day of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973, which plays an important role in ensuring that international trade does not threaten the species’ survival.'

So. In support of World Wildlife Day, here are two projects working on endangered wildlife protection in Mongolia and how you can help support them.

Wild Camel Protection Foundation

The Wild Camel Protection Foundation (WCPF) was established in 1997 with the sole aim to protect the critically endangered wild camel (Camelus ferus) and its habitat in the fragile and unique desert ecosystems in the Gobi Desert in north-west China and south-west Mongolia. 

Photo credit - John Hare WCPF
And in case you're wondering what makes the Camelus Ferus different to the local Bactrian camel used by Mongolia's herders?

1) It is smaller, lighter in colour, has smaller humps set further apart and has a flat hear. The Mongolians call the wild camel havtgai - flat head. 
2) In 2008, after numerous DNA tests of hair, bone and skin samples were sent by WCPF to the Veterinary University in Vienna, it was recognidred as a separate species and not just a wild or feral Bactrian camel gone walkabouts. 
3) In 2004, WCPF set up a breeding centre in the south west of Mongolia (Gobi Altai Province). A second release of wild camels from the centre in 2015 was agreed in September 2014 by the Ministry of Nature and Environment. The bull camels will be satellite collared to their progress can be monitored. 

Photo credit - John Hare WCPF
WCPF has a  small online shop - all proceeds go to supporting the work of the project. (It costs $2,500 a month to run the WCPF Mongolian Breeding Centre and $10,000 every September to provide hay for the wild camels at the Breeding Centre to survive the long, harsh winter.)

My particular favourites include a camel wool scarf hand-knitted by a herder for WCPF with wild camel wool collected at the wild camel breeding centre, Zakhyn Us, Mongolia. My other favourite is the book produced by John Hare - the founder of WCPF. It is an illustrated picture booklet showing some of the rare medicinal plants to be found in or near the Gobi Desert in China and Mongolia with a description of their use. (The text and photographs have been checked by botanical authorities at Kew Gardens, London, England.)

Snow Leopard Trust

Snow Leopards? In Mongolia? Absolutely! 

Image of a snow leopard in Mongolia from snowleopardconservancy.org

Snow leopards (Panthera uncia) are endangered and only found in the rugged mountains of Central Asia. As with other wildlife species, human threats have created an uncertain future for these beautiful animals despite a range of over 2  million (square) kilometres, there are estimated only to be between 4000-6500 snow leopards left in the wild which is heartbreaking. 

Back to Mongolia. The Tost Mountains in the southern Gobi have one of the densest populations of snow leopards in the world (yes, you read that correctly - snow leopards in the southern Gobi).

The Snow Leopard Trust first began working in Mongolia in 1992. They partner with the Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation (SLCF) to support 6 full-time and 1 part-time staff positions to grow snow leopard conservation efforts in the country.

Many of the herding families sharing snow leopard habitat have their livestock killed by snow leopards which can cause great financial hardship as they can ill afford  to lose their livestock to predators. The Snow Leopard Trust has a community-based conservation project called Snow Leopard Enterprises. This program provides training and equipment that enables participants to make handmade items from the raw wool of their livestock. The Snow Leopard Trust purchases the finished items at mutually agreed upon prices, and sells the items through their online shop. In order for a community to participate and earn this additional income, each member must sign a conservation agreement
Photo credit - Snow Leopard Trust
And of course, one other way you can support wildlife protection in Mongolia is by joining the July departure of our Conservation and Research Expedition in connection with Association Goviin Khulan. Find out more here....

Happy World Wildlife Day!