Round River’s newest project is in the taiga of northern Mongolia in three newly-formed Protected Areas (PAs) in the Darhad Valley of the Huvsgul province.
In 2012, the Mongolian Parliament ratified two new protected areas in the mountains surrounding the Darhad Valley. The protected areas, Tengis-Shishged National Park and Ulaan Taiga Strictly Protected Area, along with the pre-existing Horidol Saridag Strictly Protected Area, were placed under the direction of the Ulaan Taiga Protected Areas Administration (UTPAA), based in the town of Ulaan Uul in the Darhad. These protected areas comprise 1.5 million hectares of high-elevation taiga contiguous with the vast Lake Huvsgul National Park to the east, and large sparsely inhabited Siberia to the north. An opportunity exists for Round River to assist in creating a center of ecological monitoring and research within this remote region of Mongolia.
This Round River program provides numerous options for wildlife research on wolves, brown bear, lynx, manul, snow leopard, wolverine, sable, marten, otter, mink, and fox. In addition, elk, moose, roe deer, wild reindeer, argali, ibex, pika, hare, bat, and numerous rodents also inhabit the region, along with large numbers of raptors and other birds. The taimen, Mongolia’s famous 200 pound salmon, is also abundant in the Shishged and Delger watersheds within the PAs. Few of these species have been systematically studied, and in most cases, including wolves, bears, and lynx, no one has any idea of their population status. Likewise, few people have yet studied the flora. Ecosystem processes also remain poorly understood, and fire dynamics, high elevation wetlands, grazing impacts, permafrost distribution, and river systems are among the topics that bear greater scrutiny. Gaining a baseline on all of these will be important as the PAs move into monitoring and management in the era of global climate change.
Round River is partnering with the Mongolian Wolverine Project, which has been conducting wolverine research in the Darhad Valley of Huvsgul Province since 2010. Wolverines are poorly understood throughout their global range, and prior to this research the species had never been formally assessed in Mongolia. The Mongolian Wolverine Project first documented wolverine distribution throughout Mongolia, and now focuses on the Darhad region where a robust population exists. The project has thus far used a combination of ethnographic techniques, non-invasive surveys, and genetics to assess this population. Round River’s involvement will allow the project to gain greater information on this population.
Mongolia is a beautiful vast country, with a functional democracy sandwiched between Russia to the north, and China to the south. Mongolia is the most sparsely inhabited country on earth, with an average of about 2.5 people per square mile. Over half of the population lives in or around the capital city, Ulaanbaatar (UB for short). The rest of the country is referred to as “the countryside,” where 1/3 of Mongolians continue to make a living herding livestock.