MONGOLIAN WILD ANIMALS
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.