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Animals in Mongolia and Mongolian Wildlife

Mongolia, known for its vast, rugged expanses and its nomadic culture, is a land teeming with diverse wildlife and unique animal species. From the majestic Gobi Desert to the high mountain ranges, animals in Mongolia have adapted to a variety of habitats, offering an enriching experience for those who travel in Mongolia. This article explores the fascinating creatures that inhabit Mongolia, essential for any traveller wishing to immerse themselves in the country's natural beauty.

Mongolian wildlife
Mongolian wildlife - Terelj National Park

The Rich Biodiversity of Animals in Mongolia

Mongolia is home to an array of animal species that have adapted to its harsh and diverse environments. According to Britannica, the country's wildlife includes snow leopards, Gobi bears, and wild Bactrian camels, each species reflecting the resilience and diversity of life in this region. The Mongolian Gobi Desert, one of the most notable ecosystems globally, supports a variety of species that have adapted to its extreme conditions, from rare desert bears to the iconic Gobi viper.

Mongolian wild horses
Animals in Mongolian wild horses

Embarking on Mongolia Travel: Wildlife Watching Adventures

For travellers, Mongolia offers unparalleled opportunities for wildlife observation. Whether its bird watching in the wetlands, spotting snow leopards in the Altai Mountains, or observing the Przewalski's horses in their natural habitat, there's something for every nature enthusiast. Travel agencies often provide specialized tours that focus on wildlife observation, ensuring a thrilling and educational experience for their clients.

Great Gobi Desert - Camels caravan
Great Gobi Desert - Camels caravan

The Mysteries of the Mongolian Gobi Desert

The Gobi Desert, spanning much of southern Mongolia, is a place of wonder and extreme conditions. As highlighted by Wikipedia, it's not just the landscape that is diverse, but also the wildlife. The Gobi is home to some of the rarest animals in Mongolia and the world, such as the Gobi bear - Mongolia's desert-dwelling ursine, and the wild Bactrian camel, which can survive on salt water. These species have evolved unique adaptations to thrive in the desert, making the Gobi a fascinating destination for scientific and recreational travel alike.


Planning Your Travel in Mongolia: A Journey into Wild Habitats

Travel in Mongolia is not just about the destinations; it's about experiencing the country's heart and soul, which is reflected in its wildlife. Preparation is key to making the most of your journey. Prospective travellers should plan their trips with the help of reputable travel agencies, ensuring they have the necessary permits and guidance for responsible wildlife interactions. Additionally, respecting local customs and wildlife regulations is crucial to preserving Mongolia's natural heritage for future generations.

Animals in Mongolia are as diverse as the country's landscapes. They are not just part of the ecosystem but are intertwined with the nation's cultural identity. By choosing to travel in Mongolia, visitors are offered a glimpse into the wild side of this beautiful country, creating memories and experiences that will last a lifetime. Whether it's the desolate beauty of the Mongolian Gobi Desert or the thrill of spotting rare animal species, Mongolia’s wildlife is a treasure trove waiting to be explored.


Indigenous and Iconic Animals in Mongolia

The Snow Leopard: Ghost of the Mountains

Wild animals in Mongolia - The snow leopard
Wild animals in Mongolia - The snow leopard

One of the most elusive animals in Mongolia, the snow leopard, is a sight to behold. According to the World Wildlife Fund, these magnificent creatures are perfectly adapted to the cold, barren landscape of Mongolia's high mountains. Their thick fur, wide, fur-covered feet act as natural snowshoes, and long tails for balance make them the undisputed rulers of their habitat. However, they are listed as vulnerable due to habitat loss and poaching, making conservation efforts critical to their survival.


Przewalski's Horses: The Wild Horses of the Steppes

Mongolian wild horses - Przewalski's Horses
Mongolian wild horses - Przewalski's Horses

Przewalski's horses hold a unique spot in Mongolia's heart, being the only true wild horses in the world. As per a study cited in National Geographic, they were once extinct in the wild but have been successfully reintroduced to the grasslands of Mongolia. Their rugged, stocky build helps them survive in harsh environments, and seeing them gallop freely in the wild is a testament to successful conservation efforts.


The Gobi Bear: Survivor of the Desert

The Gobi Bear
The Gobi Bear - Baby Mazaalai

The mysterious Gobi bear, or Mazaalai, is one of the rarest bears globally, with only a few individuals left in the wild. These animals are smaller than their relatives and have a lighter, sand-coloured coat, allowing them to blend into the Gobi Desert. They are omnivores, with a diet that changes with the seasons, according to research from the Gobi Bear Project. Their struggle for survival in such an inhospitable environment is a poignant reminder of the fragility of life on the edge.


Mongolian Saiga Antelope: The Nomads of the Plains

Baby Saiga antelope
Baby Saiga antelope in Mongolian wildlife

The saiga antelope is known for its distinctive, oversized nose that warms up the cold winter air before it's taken to the lungs. As reported by the Saiga Conservation Alliance, these creatures have roamed the Mongolian steppes for centuries. However, they are now critically endangered due to poaching and habitat loss, primarily from industrial expansion and unregulated hunting.


The Wild Bactrian Camel: The Ship of the Gobi

Mongolian Baby Camels
Mongolian Baby Camels

One of the most remarkable animals in Mongolia is the wild Bactrian camel. According to the Wild Camel Protection Foundation, it has adapted to life in the desert, able to drink brackish water and eat snow in lieu of water. It's one of the world's rarest mammals and a distinct species separate from domestic Bactrian camels, with a stronger, more resilient genetic makeup.


Conservation Efforts: Safeguarding Mongolia's Natural Heritage

The government of Mongolia, along with various international organizations, is working tirelessly to protect these precious species from extinction. Through national parks, wildlife reserves, and conservation projects, they aim to preserve the natural habitats of these animals and promote sustainable tourism. Travelers to Mongolia can contribute to these efforts by respecting the local wildlife and supporting conservation initiatives.


The Argali Sheep: Monarchs of the Mountains

Argali sheep
Mongolian wildlife - Argali sheep

The Argali sheep, or Ovis ammon, is one of the most impressive species native to Mongolia. Known to be the largest species of sheep, these animals are identified by their enormous, spiralling horns, sometimes measuring over 6 feet in length. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), they prefer high-altitude locales, where they graze on vast grassy plateaus and steep slopes. However, they face threats from illegal hunting and competition for grazing.


The Siberian Ibex: Agile Climbers of the Altai

Siberian Ibex in Mongolian wildlife

The Siberian Ibex is a stunning specimen of the wilds of Mongolia. These creatures are celebrated for their incredible climbing skills, thriving in some of the most rugged terrains, as per the information from the IUCN. With their long, curved horns and a coat that changes with the seasons, they represent a harmonious adaptation to the country's mountainous regions.


The Mongolian Gazelle: Graceful Wanderers of the Steppe

Mongolian Gazelle
Mongolian Gazelle in the Mongolian steppe

Covering vast distances across Mongolia's grasslands, the Mongolian gazelle is a species known for its remarkable migratory patterns. They travel in large herds, grazing on the steppes and plains, as documented by the Wildlife Conservation Society. Their existence is threatened by factors such as habitat fragmentation, human interference, and severe weather conditions during their extensive migrations.


The Pallas's Cat: Elusive Hunters of the Grasslands

Mongolian Pallas's cat - Manul
Mongolian Pallas's cat - Manul

Also known as the manul, the Pallas's cat is a small, solitary feline that calls the Mongolian steppe home. According to the IUCN, they are distinguished by their dense, silvery-grey fur, flat face, and low-set ears, adaptations for a predatory life in often harsh environments. They're primarily nocturnal and known for their extraordinary stalking prowess. Conservation efforts for these elusive cats are ongoing, as they face threats from habitat degradation and human encroachment.


The Golden Eagle: Majestic Predators of the Sky

Mongolian Golden Eagle
Mongolian Golden Eagle - king of eternal sky

The Golden Eagle, one of the best-known birds of prey worldwide, is a symbol of strength and resilience in Mongolia. These majestic birds are used in the traditional practice of eagle hunting, as noted by the BBC. With their sharp talons, keen eyesight, and powerful beaks, they are formidable hunters, soaring over the open steppes and mountainous terrains in search of prey.


The Eurasian Lynx: Silent Shadows of the Forests

The Eurasian Lynx
The Eurasian Lynx - A silent hunter

The Eurasian lynx, with its characteristic tufted ears, short tail, and large paws, is a silent but effective hunter in Mongolia's forests. As per the World Wildlife Fund, they are solitary animals, often hunting at night. Their preferred prey includes deer and smaller mammals, and they play a crucial role in maintaining the ecological balance in their habitat.


The Red Deer: Royalty of the Forests

The Red Deer
The Red Deer

Also known as the maral or noble deer, the red deer is a majestic presence in the lusher parts of Mongolia. As detailed by the Mongolian Red List of Mammals, these animals prefer the cover of forested regions for protection and the availability of their preferred diet of grasses, leaves, and twigs. The stags are particularly known for their impressive antlers, which they shed and regrow every year.


Mongolian Elk in the Forest
Mongolian Elk in the Forest

In the expansive and diverse terrains of Mongolia, the elk, known regionally as the Altai wapiti, carves its niche in the lusher, forested areas, often found roaming the foothills and valleys beneath the towering peaks of the Altai Mountains. This majestic creature, a subspecies of the Red Deer, is distinguished by its impressive antlers in males, used in competitive displays during the mating season. According to resources from the World Wildlife Fund, the elk in Mongolia are integral to the ecological balance, contributing to the health of grassland habitats through their grazing and serving as a vital prey for native predators such as wolves and snow leopards. However, they face continuous threats from overhunting and habitat encroachment due to human activities. Conservation efforts are ongoing to ensure the elk populations are preserved, emphasizing the importance of sustainable practices and the protection of their natural habitats. These initiatives are crucial in maintaining the biodiversity and natural beauty that make Mongolia's wilderness areas so remarkable.


The Saker Falcon: Winged Hunters of the Steppes

The Saker Falcon
The Saker Falcon

The saker falcon is a powerful bird of prey found throughout Mongolia. According to the Peregrine Fund, this raptor is highly valued for its speed and agility, especially in falconry. The open steppes and grasslands provide an ideal hunting ground for these birds as they dive and swoop with precision to catch their prey, playing a vital role in controlling the populations of small mammals and insects.


The Grey Wolf: The Canine Phantom

Mongolian grey wolf
Mongolian grey wolf in the forest

The grey wolf, a legendary figure in many Mongolian myths and stories, is a key predator in the Mongolian ecosystem. These social animals live in packs and are known for their haunting howls that can be heard across the valleys, as described by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). They are crucial for maintaining the balance in wildlife populations, often preying on the sick or elderly animals, thereby strengthening the prey species' overall health.


The Steppe Eagle: Soaring Sentinels

The steppe eagle, with its broad, rounded wings and a wide, square tail, is a common sight in the Mongolian sky. As reported by BirdLife International, these birds migrate incredible distances, and their presence in Mongolia is a vital part of the biodiversity. They feed primarily on small mammals and carrion, cleaning the environment and preventing the spread of diseases.


The Altai Weasel: Small but Mighty Predator

Altai weasel
Altai weasel

The Altai weasel, known for its slender body and short legs, is a small carnivore that inhabits the mountainous regions of Mongolia. According to the IUCN, they are primarily hunters of small rodents, and their diet helps control rodent populations, preventing overgrazing and the spread of disease. Their bright, reddish-yellow fur makes them a target for poachers, and they are considered a species of Least Concern, though habitat disruption is a growing threat.


The Mongolian Marmot: Architect of the Steppes

Mongolian marmot in the mountain range
Mongolian marmot in the mountain range

Mongolian marmots are large ground squirrels known for their burrowing habits. They create extensive underground networks that not only serve as their homes but also significantly aerate the soil, leading to healthier grasslands, as documented by the Mongolian Biodiversity Databank. Unfortunately, they are hunted for their meat and fur, pushing their numbers to near-threatened levels.


The Smaller Denizens: Rodents, Reptiles, and Insects of Mongolia

The Brandt's Vole: Tiny Tiller of the Soil

The Brandt's Vole
The Brandt's Vole: Tiny Tiller of the Soil

Brandt's voles are small rodents that play a significant role in the ecosystem. These creatures are known for their extensive burrowing activities, which help to aerate the soil, improving its health and fertility. According to a study published in the Journal of Arid Environments, these voles are also a fundamental part of the diet for many predators, including birds of prey and carnivorous mammals, thereby maintaining a critical balance within the food chain.


The Mongolian Gerbil: A Desert Dweller

The Mongolian Gerbil: A Desert Dweller
The Mongolian Gerbil: A Desert Dweller

The Mongolian gerbil is a small mammal adapted to a desert environment, with many unique features that allow it to conserve water and tolerate a diet dry vegetation. As noted by the Mongolian Journal of Biological Sciences, they are essential for seed dispersion, contributing to the vegetation dynamics of the habitats they occupy.


The Toad-headed Agama: A Reptilian Sunbather

toad-headed agama
toad-headed agama

The toad-headed agama is a fascinating reptile found in the sandy regions of Mongolia. According to Herpetologica, these lizards have a unique behavior of basking in the sun during the day and becoming active in the evenings. Their diet, primarily consisting of insects, helps control bug populations, and their distinctive coloration and patterns make them a subject of interest for ecotourists and researchers alike.


The Mongolian Racerunner: The Speedster of the Steppes

This species of lizard is known for its incredible speed, darting quickly across the open spaces in search of food or when threatened by predators. As per a report by the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, racerunners are insectivorous, feeding on a variety of insects and playing a role in maintaining the ecological balance of insect populations.


Butterflies of Mongolia: Colorful Pollinators

Butterflies of Mongolia - Colorful Pollinators
Butterflies of Mongolia - Colorful Pollinators

Mongolia is home to a variety of butterfly species, each adding a splash of color to the natural landscape. Species such as the Peacock Butterfly, Painted Lady, and Black-veined White are just a few examples. These insects, as highlighted by a publication from the National University of Mongolia, are vital pollinators, helping in the reproduction of many plant species, which in turn supports the health and diversity of ecosystems.


The Mongolian Grasshopper: Melodic Acrobats

The Mongolian Grasshopper: Melodic Acrobats
The Mongolian Grasshopper: Melodic Acrobats

Grasshoppers are a common sight in Mongolia's grasslands. They are known for their jumping abilities and the distinctive sounds males make to attract mates. According to Entomological Research, they are a crucial part of the ecosystem, providing a food source for various predators and participating in nutrient recycling by consuming plant material and contributing to soil fertility through their droppings.


Household Animal in Mongolia

In Mongolia, a country known for its nomadic traditions and vast, rugged landscapes, household animals are not just pets but an integral part of the daily life and survival of the people. Among these, the most prominent are:


Mongolian horses - true friend of Mongolian men
Mongolian horses - true friend of Mongolian men

The Mongolian horse is a symbol of national heritage and pride. These small, sturdy animals are renowned for their endurance and agility, traits honed by the harsh natural environment. For centuries, they have been companions to the nomadic herders, serving as transport across the steppes and playing a central role in traditional games and ceremonies. Their milk is also fermented into a national beverage known as "airag."


Mongolian yaks - King of snows
Mongolian yaks - King of snows

Particularly found in the mountainous regions, yaks are invaluable to Mongolian families. They are primarily used for their milk, meat, and hide, but also as reliable transport animals capable of traversing the difficult terrains of Mongolia. Their wool is used to make clothing and blankets, providing essential warmth during the cold winters.


Mongolian sheeps and goats - treasure of Mongolia
Mongolian sheeps and goats - treasure of Mongolia

These animals form the backbone of nomadic herding, providing a consistent source of meat, milk, and wool. The cashmere from Mongolian goats is highly prized, making it a significant source of income for many families. Sheep's wool is also vital, used in making traditional Mongolian clothing and the felt for ger insulation, the portable tents used by nomads.


Mongolian camels in the Great Gobi Desert
Mongolian camels in the Great Gobi Desert

In the arid regions of the Gobi Desert, Bactrian camels are not just a mode of transportation but also a source of wool, milk, and meat. They are well-adapted to the harsh desert conditions and vital for the nomadic families in these areas. Camel wool is also used for making textiles, and their milk, known for its nutritional value, is often consumed fresh or fermented.


Mongolian dog - guard of nomadic life
Mongolian dog - guard of nomadic life

Often overlooked, the Mongolian herding dog, known as the "bankhar," plays a crucial role in nomadic life. These dogs are tasked with protecting the herds from predators and are valued for their loyalty and courage. They are well-adapted to the harsh climate, often sleeping outside to guard the ger and the animals. Each of these household animals is cared for with a deep understanding of the land and a commitment to coexisting with nature, a reflection of Mongolia's enduring nomadic culture. They are more than just domesticated animals; they are a vital part of the family and the traditional way of life, representing a harmonious balance between humans and the natural world.


Our Mongolian tours by Enza Tours LLC

Our Mongolian tours by Enza Tours LLC
Our Mongolian tours by Enza Tours LLC

Embarking on a tour in Mongolia offers an unforgettable adventure through a land of raw natural beauty and cultural richness. From the hustle of Ulaanbaatar to the serene expanses of the Gobi Desert, here are some of the best tours you can experience in Mongolia: