GOBI STRICTLY PROTECTED AREA
zone: desert, desert steppe. Special features: preserves representative
example of Gobi desert; important habitat area for globally
rare and endangered species; World Biosphere Reserve, designated
1991; last site Przewalski's horse recorded in the wild.
Size and location:
5.3 million hectares in two parts, including the 4.4 million
hectare Southern Altai Gobi (Gobi A) and the 881,000 hectare
Dzungarian Gobi (Gobi B). Situated in Bayanhongor, Gobi-Altai,
and Khovd provinces.
Great Gobi reserve protects a largely undisturbed part of
the vast Gobi desert, and provides a last refuge for representatives
of the ancient terrestrial fauna of Central Asia. In recognition
of its unique qualities, the Mongolian government established
the Great Gobi Strictly Protected area in 1975. In 1991, the
United Nations designated the Great Gobi as an international
Biosphere Reserve, the fourth largest Biosphere Reserve in
the world, and the largest in Asia.
|The protected area is divided into two ecologically
distinct parts, the Southern Altai Gobi ("Gobi A") and the
Dzungarian Gobi ("Gobi B"), separated by 300 lometers. Scientists
have identified 410 species of plants, 49 species of mammals,
15 reptiles and amphibians and over 150 bird species in the
protected ,area. While the Southern Altai Gobi is uninhabited
except for park staff and border guards, the Dzungarian Gobi
is seasonally used by herders.
Found in the Gobi desert, this lizard
is endemic to Central Asia.
|The terrain features small mountain ranges and massifs
broken by wide valleys, rolling plains, outwashes and hummocks.
Contrary to what many people imagine, very little of the area
is covered by sand. Atas Mountain is the highest point in
the Great Gobi protected area, at 2695 meters above sea level,
while the lowest point is 583 meters.
The larger Southern
Altai Gobi exhibits flora and fauna typical of the deserts
of Central Asia. Desert steppe species are found primarily
at higher elevations, and saxaul forests occur on mountain
slopes. As one moves south, the climate becomes increasingly
arid, and lowelevation, southern regions of the Southern
Altai Gobi are characterized by a special zone of stone-covered
super-arid desert where higher plants are largely absent
except in dry washes and depressions.
Camelus bactrianus ferus
The Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area and adjacent
border areas in China provide a last home for the wild Bactrian
camel, one of the rarest and least studied mammals on earth.
The Gobi's wild camels are the last surviving wild ancestors
of the world's domestic Bactrian (two-humped) camels. Biologists
estimate that approximately 300 camels remain, and that the
population is declining. Additional research on this species
is urgently needed.
|Though the Southern Altai Gobi's vast plains and
valleys and rugged, and mountain ranges appear almost lifeless
from a distance, the area provides a last haven for some of
the rarest and most endangered species of wildlife found on
earth. Perhaps 30 Gobi bears (Ursus arctos), the world's only
desert-living bear, and Mongolia's last wild Bactrian camels
(Camelus bactrianus) inhabit the protected area. Reptiles
found here that are endemic to Central Asia include the Gobi
gecko (Cyrtapodion elongatus) and Tatar sand boa (Eryx tataricus).
The Dzungarian Gobi
exhibits the ecological influences of the deserts of both
Kazakhstan and Central Asia. Vegetation is more plentiful,
owing to greater precipitation. In both parts of the protected
area, vegetation is characterized by feather grasses, shrubs,
and semi-shrubs. Small groves of downy poplar (Populus diversifolia)
The Dzungarian, which
is largely desert steppe, provides important habitat for
the world's largest remaining herds of wild ass (Equus hemionus)
as well as herds of blacktailed gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa).
The Dzungarian was the last refuge for the world's only
remaining truly wild horse, the Takhi, or Przewalski's horse
Wild Ass (Khulan)
Herds of khulan, the wild ancestor of
the domestic ass, are common in the desert and desert steppe
along Mongolia's southern border with China, particularly
in the Dzungarian Gobi and areas east of the protected area.
Khulan, which live in herds of as many as 500 animals, can
run up to 65 km per hour, easily outdistancing most predators.
Although little is known about them, it is believed that khulan
are expanding their range in Mongolia, though domestic livestock
increasingly compete with them for pasture.
The Gobi's wild
ass population is the largest of four sub-populations of
the Asiatic wild ass in the world, the others being in Turkmenistan
|In both areas, permanent water sources
are critical to large mammals and many other desert animals.
Springs are particularly scarce in the Southern Altai Gobi,
where they are concentrated in mountain massifs and low hills,
while the region's plains and rolling terrain are largely
devoid of surface water. By contrast, in the Dzungarian Gobi,
more favorable precipitation patterns lead to more frequent,
evenly distributed water sources.
Eleven species of jerboa inhabit the two sectors
of the Great Gobi reserve. The main group of these jerboas
constitutes the endemic species of the Central Asian deserts.
These small nocturnal animals can jump as far as 3 meters.
jerboas have keen hearing and large eyes for seeing in the
| Threats to the protected area include uncontrolled motor-vehicle
use and human and domestic livestock use of scarce natural
water sources and pastures important to wildlife in the Dzungarian
and northern part of the Southern Altai Gobi.
The Takhi, or Przewalski's horse, is the last true
wild horse in the world, the wild relative of the domestic
horses found today across the globe. When the Takhi disappeared
from the Gobi in the late 1960s, the world was left with a
small captive breeding population of horses descended from
only thirteen animals. Since then, breeding programs in zoos
and reserves around the world have increased the captive population
to over 1200 of the golden brown, black-maned horses. Today,
the Takhi is the subject of several international reintroduction
efforts at two sites in Mongolia. One, at Takhiin Tal in the
Dzungarian Gobi and the other in forest steppe at Khustain
Mountain Natural Reserve. As a result of these activities,
Mongolia now has over 60 Takhi.
Mongolian Protected Area
Lake Protected Area