Mongolia's Gobi Bear: an Endangered Sub-Species

Only 30-50 Gobi bears may survive, but even this estimate is uncertain. They are known to persist only in the region of the Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area of southwestern Mongolia. Because of their present low population size, restricted range, and limited available habitat these bears are listed in the Mongolian Red Book of Endangered Species, a categorization that was validated by the bear’s designation as Critically Endangered in the November 2005 Mongolian Biodiversity Databank Assessment Workshop.  Additionally, these bears must now accommodate large and far-reaching mineral extraction in their range.

As a part of the Gobi Bear Project, Craighead Beringia South has helped to initiate research and to develop science-based strategies that are effective for the recovery of Mongolia’s Gobi bear population from its present Critically Endangered status.

More on the Project:

Objectives

The Gobi Bear Project has conducted research and conservation actions that focus on the following objectives: 

  • Determine population size and assess potential limiting factors.
  • Determine habitat use and movement patterns between and in the three oasis complexes.
  • Determine genetic status.
  • Train Mongolian bear specialists in techniques for bear capture, handling, and data analysis.
  • Provide training on data collection and monitoring for rangers of the Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area.

Updates

From the field, 2014 notes:
We caught 3 bears this spring, 2 males and a female, and retrieved a collar this fall, as well as collected hair samples for a myriad of purposes. The State Secretary for the Ministry of Environment and Green Development visited the project this spring along with a group of government people from Bayanhongor Aimag who were instrumental in stopping a proposal in Parliament to excise a large portion of the GGSPA and the heart of the Gobi bear habitat and open it for mining. We even managed to capture a bear during the two days they were present. After last year’s disastrous ~35mm of annual precipitation, there was a major rain event this summer and as a result there was a bumper crop of Nitraria that was heavily used by bears. So life is good in the Gobi this summer.
The mining does continue to grow, with some significant differences—people are coming from much greater distances and with more sophisticated approaches than just using a metal detector and a shovel. The rangers were in the process of turning over a group of 8 caught in a single van to national or regional police when we arrived in Bayantoorai this spring. One important recommendation we made this spring was to provide rangers with newer faster motorcycles and a greater fuel allowance that would allow them to make more frequent patrols. This fall, the new motorcycles were in evidence with all the rangers that we visited.

Click here for information about our Gobi Bear education efforts.

Publications and Data

Gobi Bear Population Survey 2009. Final Report May 2011. Odbayar Tumendemberel, Michael Proctor, Harry Reynolds, Luvsamjamba Amgalan, Tuya Tserenbataa, Mijiddorj Batmunkh, Derek Craighead, Nyambayar Yanjin, David Paetkau.

Presence of the neurotoxic amino acids β -N-methylamino-L-alanine(BMAA) and 2,4-diamino-butyric acid (DAB) in shallow springs from the Gobi Desert. 2009. D. Craighead, J.S. Metcalf, S.A. Banack, L. Amgalan, H.V. Reynolds, and M. Batmunkh. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, 10: 1, 96 — 100.

Photo Gallery

Partners

Mongolian Academy of Science
The Mongolian Ministry of Natural Resources
Great Gobi Special Protected Area biologists and officials