Mongolian tour guide


Mongolia has 136 mammal species, as well as almost 400 different types of birds and 76 species of fish. Central and Northern Mongolia, with its rich forest areas, are home to wolf, wild boar, elk, roe deer and brown bear, while the steppes and forest margins support marmot, muskrat, fox, steppe fox, and sable. The Altai Mountains to the west are home to wolf and wild cats such as lynx and snow leopard, in addition to the world’s largest wild sheep – the Argali - and Siberian Ibex. The Gobi desert and the eastern Mongolian steppe are inhabited by thousands of gazelles. The rarest animal in Mongolia- the Gobi bear is found in the southwestern part of the Gobi. Wild ass and wild Bactrian camels are found in the desert while Argali and Gobi Ibex also inhabit the rocky mountains within the Gobi region. The Przewalski’s wild horse have been reintroduced to the country from captivity abroad after being extinct and are now increasing in numbers, while the tiger population appears to be extinct – although one or two tantalizing unconfirmed sightings seem to crop up each year.


​Siberian and American Elk, are the second largest species of deer in the world, after the moose (Alces alces). Elk is also referred to as “wapiti”, which is the Native American word wapiti, or “white rump” used by the Shawnee. Elk is widely distributed across North America and Eastern Asia, They should not be confused with the European animal also known as the elk, which is the moose of North America. Early European explorers to North America, who were familiar with the smaller Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) of Europe, believed that the much larger North American animal looked more like moose, which in Europe is called an elk. The renaming has become part of the common vocabulary of North Americans.

Until recently, the elk and the European Red Deer were considered the same species, but recent DNA evidence has demonstrated that they are different species. According to the study, another even more closely related species to the Elk than the Red Deer is the Sika Deer (Cervus Nippon) of Asia.

Elk is one of the largest mammals that inhabit North Asia (Southern Siberia, Mongolia), temperate Eastern Asia (including Manchuria, Ussuri Region, Northern China, and Korea), and much of North America. They have a unique mating ritual in which males perform posturing, antler wrestling and especially bugling, a loud series of screams designed to help attract female sand to establish dominance over other males. Elk populations are currently increasing in North America, but population figures in Eastern Asia are not well established. In Mongolia, they may be seen in the Northern regions close to the Russian border.

BROWN BEAR (Ursus arctos)

​​The brown bear is a species of bear distributed throughout the Northern hemisphere. Weighing up to 130–700 kg (290-1,500 pounds), the larger races of a brown bear tie with the Polar bear as the largest extant land carnivores. The grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis), the Kodiak Bear (Ursus arctos midden dor fi), and the Mexican brown bear are North American subspecies of the brown bear. However, DNA analysis has recently revealed that the identified subspecies of brown bears, both Eurasian and North American, are genetically quite homogeneous. It is sometimes referred to poetically as the brain. They are omnivores and feed on a variety of plant parts, including berries, roots, and sprouts, fungi, fish, insects, and small mammals, especially ground squirrels. Contrary to popular mythology, brown bears are not particularly carnivorous as they drive up to 90% of their dietary food energy from vegetable matter. Their jaw structure has evolved to fit their dietary habits and it is longer and lacks strong, sharp canine teeth of true predators. Bears eat an enormous number of moths during the summer, sometimes as many as 40,000 in a day, and may derive up to a third of their food energy from these insects. Locally, in areas of Russia and Alaska, brown bears feed mostly on spawning salmon, and the nutrition and abundance of this food account for the enormous size of the bears from these areas. Brown bears also occasionally prey on deer (Odocoeilus spp.; Dama spp., Capreolus spp.), Red Deer (Cervus elaphus or American elk), moose (Alces alces) and American bison (Bison bison). When brown bears attack these animals, they tend to choose young calves or aged, sick adults because they are slow and weak. Brown bears retrace their own tracks and walk only on rocks while being hunted to avoid being traced.

BACTRIAN CAMEL (Camelus bactrianus)

​​The Bactrian Camel is a large even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of eastern Asia. The Bactrian camel has two humps on its back, in contrast to the Dromedary, also known as the Arabian Camel, which has one.

Nearly all of the estimated 1.4 million Bactrian Camels alive today are domesticated, but in October 2002 the estimated 950 remaining in the wild in northwest China and Mongolia were placed on the critically endangered species list. Bactrian Camels are over 2 meters (7 feet) tall at the hump and weigh in excess of 725 kg (1,600 lb). They are herbivores, eating grass, leaves, and grains, capable of drinking up to 120 liters (32 US gallons) of water at a time. Their mouths are extremely tough, allowing them to eat

thorny desert plants.

They are supremely adapted to protect themselves from the desert heat and sand, with wide, padded feet and thick leathery pads on the knees and chest, nostrils that can open and close, ears lined with protective hairs, and bushy eyebrows with two rows of long eyelashes. Thick fur and underwool keep the animal warm during cold desert nights and also insulate against daytime heat.

The Dromedary (Camelus dromedarius) is the only other surviving camel, native to the Sahara desert, but today is extinct in the wild. By comparison, the Bactrian Camel is a stockier, hardier animal able to survive the scorching desert heat of northern Iran to the frozen winters in Tibet and the Mongolian Gobi.

The Dromedary is taller and faster, and with a rider, it can maintain 8–9 mph for hours at a time. A loaded Bactrian Camel moves at about 2.5 mph There is some evidence that the Bactrian Camel can be divided up into different subspecies. In particular, it has been discovered that a population of wild Bactrian Camel lives within a part of the Gashun Gobi region of the Gobi Desert. This population is distinct from domesticated herds both in genetic makeup and in behavior. However, the significance of those differences has not yet been demonstrated.

There are possibly as many as three regions in the genetic makeup that are distinctly different from domesticated camels and there is up to a 3% difference in the base genetic code. That is significant when it can be considered that the genetic difference between man and chimp is just 1.5%. However, with so few wild camels, it is unclear what the natural genetic diversity within a population would have been.

Another remarkable difference is the ability of these wild camels to drink saltwater slush, although it is not yet certain the camel can extract useful water from it. Domesticated camels do not attempt to drink salt water, though the reason is unknown.

MONGOLIAN WILD ASS (Equus hemionus hemionus)

​​The Mongolian Wild Ass (also called Khulan) is a subspecies of the Onager. It may be synonymous with the Gobi Kulan or Dziggetai subspecies (Equus hemionus gluteus). It is found in Mongolia and northern China and was previously found in Kazakhstan before it became extinct due to hunting.

The Mongolian Wild Ass’s distribution range was dramatically reduced during the 1990s. A 1994-1997 survey estimated its population size at 33,000 to 63,000 individuals over a continuous distribution range encompassing all of southern Mongolia. In 2003, a new survey found approximately 20,000 individuals over an area of 177,563 km2 in southern Mongolia. Despite that, the subspecies lost about 50% of its former distribution range in Mongolia in the past 70 years. The population is declining due to poaching and competition from grazing livestock and the conservation status of the species is evaluated as vulnerable. Since 1953, the Mongolian Wild Ass has been fully protected in Mongolia. The subspecies is also listed in appendix I of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and was added to appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species in 2002. However, due to human population growth in conjunction with severe winters in the past years, the number of conflicts between herders and Mongolian Wild Ass’s appear on the increase.

Poaching for meat appears to be an increasing problem in Mongolia. For some parts of the local population, wild ass and other wildlife meat seem to provide a substitute or even a cheap alternative to meat from domestic animals. In 2005, a national survey based on questionnaires suggested that as many as 4,500 wild asses, about 20% of the whole population, may be poached each year. The Mongolian wild ass typically has a sandy-colored coat with lighter-colored legs and belly, a short erect black mane, a black spinal stripe, and a black tail tuft. It's neigh is shrill. Different races of this species vary in size, but all are smaller than the African ass. They were once widely distributed across Asia, but they have been crowded out of their grazing lands by domestic livestock and have been hunted for their flesh and hides. Each race is now restricted to a very limited territory. Among them are the Persian ass, or Onager, of central Asia; the Mongolian ass, or Kulan, of NE Asia; the Tibetan ass, or Kiang, presently the most numerous Asian wild ass; and the Indians, or Gorkha. All are considered endangered, and the continued survival of the Onager and the Kulan is particularly threatened. The Syrian wild ass, of SW Asia, is probably already extinct.

PRZEWALSKI’S WILD HORSE (Equus ferus przewalskii or Equus caballus przewalskii)

​​Przewalski’s Horse, also known as the Asian Wild Horse or Mongolian Wild Horse, or Takhi in Mongolia, is the closest living wild relative of the domestic Horse. Most “wild” horses today, such as the American Mustang, are actually feral animals, horses that were once domesticated but escaped and reverted to an apparently wild status. The Przewalski’s Horse, on the other hand, has never been successfully domesticated and remains a truly wild animal today. There were once several types of equid that had never been successfully domesticated, including the Tarpan, Onager, and others. However, most have become extinct, with the Przewalski’s Horse the only remaining truly wild horse in the world.

Poliakov, who concluded that the animal was a wild horse species, gave it the official name Equus przewalskii (Poliakov 1881). However, authorities differ about the correct classification. Some hold it is a separate species, the last remnant of the wild horse Equus ferus, others hold it is a subspecies of Equus caballus. The question will only be answered with finality if or when the common ancestor from which domestic and Przewalski’s horses diverged is determined. Although the Przewalski’s horse has 66 chromosomes, compared to 64 in a domestic horse, the Przewalski’s horse and the domestic horse are the only equids that cross-breed and produce fertile offspring, possessing 65 chromosomes.

As of a census taken in 2005, the world population of these horses was about 1,500, all descended from 31 horses that were in captivity in 1945, mostly descended from approximately 15 captured around 1900. A cooperative venture between the Zoological Society of London and Mongolian Scientists has resulted in successful reintroduction of these horses from zoos into their natural habitat in Mongolia, and as of 2005 there isafree-rangingpopulationof248animals in the wild.

The horse is named after Russian General Nikolai Przhevalsky (1839–1888). (The spelling of the horse breed as “Przewalski” derives from the Polish spelling of the name). He was an explorer and naturalist who described the horse in 1881, after having gone on an expedition to find it, based on rumors of its existence. Many of these horses were captured around 1900 by Carl Hagenbeck and placed in zoos. As noted above, about twelve to fifteen reproduced and formed today’s population.

The native population declined in the 20th century due to a combination of factors, with the wild population in Mongolia dying out in the 1960s. The last herd was sighted in 1967 and the last individual horsein1969.Expedition after this failed to locate any horses, and the species was designated “extinct in the wild” for over 30 years. After1945 only two captive populations in zoos remained: in Munich and in Prague Zoo. The most valuable group in Askania Nova was shot by German soldiers during occupation for food and the group in the USA had died.

In 1977, the Foundation for the Preservation and Protection of the Hustai National Park in 1998 which can be visited just two jeep days away from Ulaan Baatar.

ARGALI (Ovis ammon)

​​The argali or the mountain sheep is a globally endangered wild sheep, which roams the highlands of Central Asia (Himalaya, Tibet, Altay). It is also the biggest wild sheep, standing as high as 120 cm and weighing as much as 140 kg. The Pamir argali (also called Marco Polo sheep, for they were first described by that traveler) may attain more than 6 feet in length.

The general coloration varies between each animal, from a lightish yellow to a dark grey-brown. The face is lighter. Argalis have a whitish rump patch, although there is much variation between subspecies in Przewalski Horse was founded by Jan and terms of size and borders. Adult males Inge Bouman, which started a program of exchange between captive populations in zoos throughout the world to reduce inbreeding, and later starting a breeding program fits own.In1992, sixteen horses were released into the wild in Mongolia, followed by additional animals later on. These reintroduced horses successfully reproduced, and the status of the animal was changed from “extinct in the wild” to “endangered” in 2005. The area to

carry two enormous corkscrew-like horns, which can reach 190 cm / 6.3 feet when measured along the spiral. Females also bear horns, although these are much smaller, rarely exceeding 30 cm / 1 foot in length. Reported population densities range from 1.0-1.2 animals per square kilometer. Seasonal migrations have been reported for some populations (especially the males), while there is a general trend to live at higher elevations in the summertime. With relatively long legs, argalis are fast runners and may flee from predators, although refuge is often taken on steep mountain slopes. The primary vocalizations are an alarm whistle and a warning hiss made by blowing air through the nostrils. When competing, males rear up on their hind leg sand, leaning forward, race towards their opponent, crashing horns in the process.

Argalis live in herds between 2 and 100 animals, segregated by sex, except during breeding season. Migrating herds, especially males, have been reported.With long legs can travel quickly from place to place.Argalistendtoliveathigher elevations during the summer. Argalis are considered endangered or threatened throughout their entire range, due to habitat loss from overgrazing of domestic sheep and hunting. They are hunted for both their meat and their horns, used in traditional Chinese medicine. Legal hunting of trophies has also added to the mortality.

GOITERED GAZELLE (Gazella subgutturosa hilleriana)

​​The Goitered, Black-tailed or Persian gazelle is a gazelle found in a large area of central Asia, including part of Iran and southern west Pakistan in the western end of the range, as well as the Gobi desert. The specific name means “full below the throat” and refers to the male having an enlargement of the neck and throat during them a ting season. This is not at true goiter, which is caused by the enlargement of the thyroid gland. The Goitered gazelle inhabits sands and gravel plains and limestone plateau. It runs at high speed, without the leaping, bounding gait seen in other gazelle species. Throughout much of their range, Goitered gazelles undergo seasonal migrations. Heads cover 10–30 km per day in the winter, with these distances being reduced to about 1–3 km in summer. In contrast to most other gazelles, goitered gazelles possess horns only in males. These gazelles inhabit desert areas from Palestine to Northern China and have become severely reduced in numbers by hunting.

The goitered gazelle, Gazella as ubgutturosa, inhabits desert and sub-desert steppes of the Arabian peninsula and southwestern Asia to northern China and Mongolia. Four subspecies are recognized by Groves (1985), two of which are presently maintained in captivity in North America. The Arabian sand gazelle G. s. America, was once common in the Arabian peninsula, ranging north through eastern Jordan and Iraq, where its range integrated with that of G. s. subgutturosa, commonly known as the Persian or goitered gazelle. Persian gazelles once ranged from eastern Turkey through Iran, Pakistan, and Soviet Central Asia. There are two forms which are the Xinjiang goitered gazelle, G. s. yarkandensis, found in the deserts of the Tarim Basin, Xinjiang, China, and the Mongolian goitered gazelle eG.s.hilleriana, native to the Gobi and Caidam and can be seen in herds of up to 20,000 in Eastern Mongolia.


​​The coat coloration varies widely across this ibex’s range. The general color of the coat is a light tan, with the undersides lighter. In winter, mature males become much darker, with varying patches of white on the neck and back. Both sexes have a dark beard beneath the chin, although it is much less pronounced in females. Unlike the Nubian and Willie ibexes, the Siberian Ibex does not display the contrasting black and white markings on its legs. Both sexes carry horns, and while in females they are small and slightly arched towards the rear, in males they grow into massive arcs which curl over the back and may even loop back on themselves. A male’s horns also have several large knobs on their frontal surface. Principally a diurnal animal, the Siberian ibex has alternating periods of resting and activity throughout the day. Although the Siberian ibex lives at high elevations, and often climb up to the vegetation line at 5,000 meters / 16,000 feet, as a rule, they seek out lower slopes during the winter. These slopes are generally steep and southward facing, areas where snow has difficulty covering in large amounts over large stretches of time. However, when the snow cover is heavy, Siberian ibex must find food by pawing away at the snow with their forelegs in order to reach the vegetation concealed below. If threatened, Siberian ibex flee to steep, rocky cliffs. Siberian Ibex produce 1 or 2 offspring, and live up to 16 years, in both maternal and bachelor herds, feeding on grasses, leaves and the shoots of bushes and trees. They are prey for Wolf, snow leopard, lynx, wolverine, brown bear, fox, golden eagle, humans and are commonly found in the alpine meadows and crags across Central Asia.

SNOW LEOPARD (Uncia uncia, or Panthera uncia)

​​The snow leopard, sometimes known as the ounce, is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of central and south Asia. The taxonomic position of this species has been subject to change. In the past, many taxonomists included the snow leopard in the genus Panthera, with several of the other largest felids, but later it was placed in its own genus, Uncia. However, most recent molecular studies place the species firmly within the genus Panthera, although the exact position remains unclear. Along with the clouded leopard, it represents an intermediate between so-called big cats and smaller species, as it cannot roar, despite possessing a cartilaginous hyoid apparatus which is thought essential in allowing the big cats to roar. Despite its name, the snow leopard is not related to the leopard, “Panthera pardus”, and is thought by some to be more closely related to the cheetah, “Acinonyx jubatus”. Both cats share similar physical characteristics, such as round skulls, long legs, and large counter-balancing tails. The cheetah, like the snow leopard, is also incapable of roaring, a trait only known in the Pantherine cats.

Well known for its beautiful fur, the snow leopard has a soft gray coat with ringed spots and rosettes of black on brown. The fur turns white in the winter. Its tail is heavy with fur and the bottom of its paws are covered with fur for protection against snow and cold. The life span of a snow leopard is normally 15-18 years, but in captivity, they can live up to 20 years.

Weighing up to 75 kilograms, the snow leopard can be distinguished from other similar species by its proportionately longer tail, which helps it maintain its balance on the rugged terrain and unstable surfaces of its habitat. The snow leopard’s tail also doubles as a warmth cover and is used to cover its nose and mouth in very cold conditions. The male’s head is usually much squarer and wider than that of the female. It's big furry feet act as snowshoes, like those of the lynx. In summer, snow leopards usually live above the tree line on mountainous meadows and in rocky regions at an altitude of up to 6000 m. In winter, they come down into the forests at an altitude of about 2000 m. They lead largely solitary lives, although mother scans rear cubs for extended periods of time in cave dens in the mountains.

Snow leopards have grey-and-white fur with numerous rosettes on the flanks and spots on the head and neck, similar to jaguars. Their tails are striped. They are opportunistic feeders, eating whatever meat they can find; they often kill animals three times their size, including domestic livestock. Snow leopards ambush prey from above when possible, as they can jumpasfaras15meters.Theiragilityoften proves helpful when ambushing prey and traversing through mountains. Their diet consists of ibex, bharal, markhor, urial, boars, as well as marmots and other small rodents. Snow leopards’ habitat in central and south Asia, a rugged mountainous region of approximately 1,230,000 square kilometers, extends through 12 countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

The total estimated wild population of the snow leopard is between 3,500 and 7,000 individuals, of which about 750 live in Mongolia.

GRAY WOLF (Canis lupus)

​​The Gray Wolf (also known as the Timber Wolf) is a mammal in the order Carnivora. The Gray Wolf shares a common ancestry with the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiar), as evidenced by DNA sequencing and genetic drift studies. Gray wolves were once abundant and distributed over much of North America, Eurasia, and the Middle East. Today, for a variety of human-related reasons including widespread habitat destruction and excessive hunting, wolves inhabit only a very limited portion of their former range. Though listed as a species of least concern for extinction worldwide, for some regions including the Continental United States, the species is listed as endangered or threatened.

The Gray Wolf, being a keystone predator, is an important part of the ecosystems to which it typically belongs. The wide range of habitats in which wolves can thrive reflects their adaptability as a species and includes temperate forests, mountains, tundra, taiga, and grasslands. In much of the world, with the exception of Northern regions, they are listed as endangered. They continue to be hunted in many areas of the world as perceived threats to livestock and humans, as well as for sport. The weight and size of the Gray Wolf can vary enormously worldwide, though both tend to increase proportionally with higher latitudes. Generally speaking, height varies from0.6–0.9meters(26–36inches) at the shoulder and weight can range anywhere from 23–59 kilograms (50–130 pounds), making wolves the largest among all wild canids. Although rarely encountered, extreme specimens reaching over 77 kg (170 lb) have been recorded in Alaska and Canada, and the heaviest wild wolf on record, which was killed in Alaska in 1939, weighed 80 kg (175 lb). The smallest wolves come from the Arabian Wolf subspecies, the females of which may weigh as little as 10 kg (22 lb) at maturity. Females in a given population typically weigh about 20% less than their male counterparts. Wolves can measure anywhere from 1.3–2 meters (4.5–6.5 feet) from nose to tail tip; the tail itself accounts for approximately one-quarter of overall body length.

Wolves are built for stamina, possessing features designed for long-distance travel. Narrow chests and powerful backs and legs facilitate efficient locomotion. They are capable of covering several miles trotting atabouta10km/h(6mph) pace and have been known to reach speeds approaching 65 km/h (40 mph) during a chase (wolves only run fast when testing potential prey). While thus sprinting, wolves can cover up to 5 meters (16 ft) per bound.

Wolf paws are able to tread easily on a wide variety of terrains, especially snow. There is a slight webbing between each toe, which allows wolves to move over snow more easily than comparatively hampered prey. Wolves are digitigrade, so the relative largeness of their feet helps to better distribute their weight on snowy surfaces. The front paws are larger than the hind paws and have a fifth digit, a dewclaw, that is absent on hind paws. Bristled hairs and blunt claws enhance grip on slippery surfaces, and special blood vessels keep paw pads from freezing. Scent glands located between a wolf’s toes leave trace chemical markers behind, helping the wolf to effectively navigate over large expanses while concurrently keeping others informed of its whereabouts.

A wolf sometimes seems heavier than it actually is due to its bulky coat, which is made of two layers. The first layer consists of tough guard hairs designed to repel water and dirt. The second is a dense, water-resistant undercoat that insulates the wolf. Wolves have distinct winter and summer pelages that alternate in spring and autumn. Females tend to keep their winter coats further into the spring than males.

Wolves have stout, blocky muzzles that help distinguish them from coyotes and dogs. Wolves also differ in certain skull dimensions, having a smaller or bit alangle, for example, than dogs (>53 degrees for dogs compared to <45 degrees for wolves) and a comparatively larger brain capacity. Larger paw size, yellow eyes, longer legs, and bigger teeth further distinguish adult wolves from other canids, particularly dogs. Also, precaudal glands at the base of the tail are present in wolves but not in dogs. Wolves and most larger dogs share identical dentition; the maxilla has six incisors, two canines, eight premolars, and four molars. The mandible has six incisors, two canines, eight premolars, and six molars. The fourth upper premolars and first lower molars constitute the carnassial teeth, which are essential tools for shearing flesh. The long

canine teeth are also important, in that they are designed to hold and subdue the prey. Powered by 1500 lb/qs. an inch of pressure, a wolf’s teeth are its main weapons as well as its primary tools. Therefore, any injury to the jaw line or teeth could devastate a wolf, dooming it to starvation or incompetence. Mongolia’s wolf population has been increasing and they are often culled.

MARMOT (Marmota sibirica)

​​The Marmot has a special place in Mongolian history, both as a creature of children’s stories, food and of plague. With several different species worldwide, (known as Ground Hogs in the US) the Mongolian Marmot or Tarvaga are active about six months a year, but still, take at least three years to mature. About half the females breed in a given year and litter sizes are small, averaging 3-4 pups. They have a single alarm call, but there is also individual variability. Mongolians prize their meat and oil and export their fur to Russia. Hunting tarvaga is a major pastime and managing hunting will prove to be a challenge in the future. Hunters shoot them from horseback and camouflage themselves with large "bunny-like" ears and also "dance" and wave a white yak-tail to get the marmots to stand up and be more easily shot. Marmots in some parts of Mongolia are subject to plague and are currently subject to a nationwide ban on hunting or eating their meat.

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