Oct 14, 2009 - Workshop in the GobiDesert with almost 50
participants In the
beginning of the second expedition experts of both the Gobi Bear and the desert
area took part in a workshop in the Trans-Altai Gobi Desert. The information that was discussed at this
meeting is available at "Expedition 2009"
Aug 11, 2009 - Second Gobi Bear Expedition will begin The expedition members will leave the capital
of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, on August 17th.
08, 2009 - Second Gobi
Bear Expedition will start in August The second Gobi bear expedition to
Trans-Altai Gobi will start in the middle of August. Preparations are being
made in Ulaanbaatar.
This year we will not travel to the Tsagaan Bogd region, instead we have
chosen a more central location. Once there we plan to bring together the main
decision-makers of the region in order to discuss what concrete steps are to be
taken in the next few years. We will also try to obtain all required licences.
This will lay the foundations for the establishment of the Gobi Bear Centre
and subsequently the construction work will begin.
We still need your support to proceed!
Aug 08, 2008: First Gobi Bear Expedition a complete
success The objective of the expedition - to create
the basis for a Gobi bear protection and information centre - was successfully achieved.
Furthermore, important ecological studies, which hadn’t been conducted to such
an extent in the investigation area before, were carried out.
Locally there was always great feedback on
the project. Due to the expedition, which was initiated by the National
University of Mongolia and the Bavarian Society for the Protection of Birds
(LBV), an important basis for further activities could be established. The
cooperation of a foreign NGO and authorities from Mongolia’s
capital especially affected the region. For instance higher priority was given
to further planned activities and their acceptance was substantially increased.
In order to consolidate this foundation, a
master’s thesis will be written, creating a detailed concept for the region
Tsagaan Bogd. Furthermore, the responsible ministry is to be persuaded to
create 2-3 secure jobs in the region. This intent is highly appreciated by the
local population because presently one ranger alone has to control the whole
The setup of the centre and the expansion of already
existing infrastructure will however depend on the availability of financial
means in future. It would be desirable to attract prospective sponsors in Europe (e.g. zoological societies
or foundations) for the project.
July 16, 2008 - German-Mongolian Gobi Bear Expedition 2008 starts! Within the next few days, an international expedition to Trans-Altai
Gobi, which is a region in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, will begin. The expedition
team of 15 people consists of German and Mongolian zoologists, film-makers,
photographers, student assistants and drivers. The expedition is associated with a project
for the protection of the Gobi bear, which is supported by
the Bavarian Society for the Protection of Birds (LBV).
The Gobi bear is one of the rarest and most threatened species on earth. It
lives in isolation in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia. A protection and information centre is now to
be built which can sustainably safeguard the existence of this little-explored species.
A group of researchers will leave the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, on Friday, July 18th to
prepare the expedition to Trans-Altai Gobi. More than 1000 km of arduous
desert-tracks lie ahead of them until they reach the range of the Gobi bear. The second group of
researchers will follow them on Monday, July 21st. After a four-day
drive, both groups will meet and begin their work. The biological researchers
will be accompanied by a film crew and a group of nature photographers from Germany as well as by a Mongolian
journalist. Leader of the expedition is Prof. Dr. Ravchig Samjaa, professor for
zoology and initiator of the project. The expedition will be accompanied by
biologist Ralf Hotzy from the Bavarian Society for the
Protection of Birds (LBV). The LBV is an association for the protection of endangered
species and biotopes and has its head office in Hilpoltstein, Germany. Mr. Hotzy has raised the financial means necessary for this joint
venture by the NationalUniversity of Mongolia and the LBV. “We would like to thank all donators and sponsors for
supporting this project, which is quite an unusual one for the LBV” Mr. Hotzy
said shortly before his departure to Mongolia. “We will try to develop a sustainable concept for the protection of
the Gobi bear in this remote area. We want to protect the Trans-Altai Gobi as a whole, which is still a primordial
landscape”. When the expedition is over, it is planned that a centre will be
built in the region. In the centre all efforts for the protection of the Gobi bear will be coordinated. It will also
help to regulatethe increasing
tourism to the region. Furthermore, it will contribute to the maintenance of
biodiversity by dealing with the increasing land-use pressure on the region
(e.g. illegal hunting). “The project is supposed to make an impact on the spot.
Therefore it is very important to keep the local inhabitants informed and
integrate them into the project”, Mr. Hotzy explains.
The Gobi bear is one of the rarest
species on earth. Only little is known about its behaviour and its habitat. It
seems to be a vegetarian and it is the only brown bear to live in a desert. It occurs
in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, a region which
seems to be hostile to animals and plants.
Although its habitat seems to be far off of any civilisation, the Gobi bear is strongly
influenced by human interference. The population only consists of few
individuals and is threatened with extinction.
We now want to launch a project in order to protect this extremely rare
species and to ensure its survival.
First we will start an expedition, where specialists from the University of Ulaanbaatar and from Europe will participate.
They will analyse the possibilities of establishing a protection programme. The
expedition took place in 2008.
The goal is to build up a permanent biological station. From there,
research on and efforts for the protection of the Gobi bear are supposed
to be coordinated. The project especially aims to work closely with the local
population and create an awareness of the Gobi bear in Mongolia.
Tsagaan Bogd mountains in the Gobi Desert
The Gobi bear Ursus gobiensisSOKOLOV et ORLOV (1992) wasonly recently discovered to be a separate species from the brown bear a few years ago. Only very little is known about this animal. The Gobi bear is related
to the brown bear but is considerably smaller in size and it has a brighter
coat than its relative. It is has a less robust frame than a brown bear and its
limbs are longer so that it can move more quickly and is more agile.
The research history concerning the Gobi bear is
remarkable. In 1900 its existence was proven for the first time. Before that
time a legend about a human animal (‘Khun Guruus’ in Mongolian) - so to speak
the Mongolian Abominable Snowman - was told. The legend was about an anthropoid
animal which lived isolated in the Gobi Desert in southern Mongolia. Once in a while
tracks were found which were interpreted to be human tracks.
Another forty years passed until the Russian botanists Junatov and
Murzajew encountered a living bear for the first time during a botanical
“It was only on August 4, 1943, that we were
able to observe this rare animal. The territory of the bear is very small and
it could survive in xeric and rough landscapes. As the discovery of the bear in
the GobiDesert is of particular
interest, I will now give some excerpts of my field diary: Today we finally
have encountered a Gobi bear…in the
northern foothills of Cagan-Bogdo in a dry and wide Sajr. It moved without
haste on the bottom of the valley. Its coat was of a dark brown colour, with
some strands of longer and brighter fur hanging down after moulting. The bear
sniffed at something, it was obviously looking for food.”
Until today Gobi bears have only rarely been
observed and only few photographs or films exist. In 2004 the bear was filmed by
an automatic camera. Best proof for its existence was given by an American
geneticist in the 1980s. He was able to obtain hairs from feeding grounds after
laying out wires. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to directly observe the animals.
Genetic examinations however gave evidence that the Gobi bear is a species
of its own. Thirteen different individuals were identified without any doubt.
Only little is known about the biology of Gobi bears. It is uncertain
whether they are diurnal or nocturnal, where they hibernate, if they live in
groups or if they are loners. There exists even disagreement concerning their
diet. Russian zoologists reckon them to be carnivores which mainly feed on
pikas (related to rabbits). Mongolian scientists however think that they are
herbivores and nourish on bajuun-roots (dwarf rhubarb; Rheum nanum) during spring and on berries and other
plants during the rest of the year. Possibly the truth lies somewhere in
The habitat of the Gobi bear is unusual and
unique. Usually, brown bears are found in large woodlands and not in remote
areas of the Trans-Altai Gobi in south-western Mongolia,
close to the Chinese border.
The Trans-Altai Gobi is located in the south
of the Mongolian-Altai and Gobi-Altai Mountains. It forms the most western branch of the desert Gobi. In the south, on Chinese
territory, the region is surrounded by the Tien
Shan mountain range. The landscape is very
craggy: it is characterized by plains, hills and mountains. The mountains are
very desolate and bald; they are structured by dry gorges. Desert and
semi-desert vegetation types predominate and the vegetation is scarce. Lush
green can only be found in the surroundings of oases. The climate is very dry
and continental, which results in extreme differences in temperatures not only
throughout a day but also throughout a year.
Due to its aridity and barren landscape the region is nearly deserted.
Not even goats, which have very modest requirements, find enough food to
survive. Some oases and their surroundings are the only inhabited places.
According to a theory of Russian scientists the Gobi bear can be seen
as a boreal relict. During the boreal, living conditions varied completely in
the Gobi desert. Wide-ranging forests - similar to forests in
the Siberian and Northern Mongolian taiga – predominated and its climate was
warmer and moister.
The Gobi bear only exists in three
smaller mountain ranges which are known as Tsagaan Bogd Uul. Its main habitat
is located in the surroundings of the oases Baruun Tooroi and Shar Khulsny
Bulag. The total area of its current habitat is estimated to be only 10,000 to
15,000 square kilometres.
The last wild camels on earth also live in this region. They are the
ancestors of our domesticated camels, which are widely spread and which have
been domesticated for centuries. Wild camels are also severely threatened. It
was in June 2002 that a stock breeder was sentenced because he had killed a
wild camel. The local inhabitants also need to be increasingly informed about
this rare species in order to substantially preserve it.
dwarf rhubarb, a relative of our
The population of the Gobi bear is estimated to amount
to only 30 to 60 individuals. Its population size is therefore critical and the
species is on the brink of extinction. Although cubs have been proven to exist,
their very limited habitat seems to deter the bears’ expansion. A substantial
prerequisite for its survival is a preferably undisturbed habitat which enables
the bears to live their secluded way of life, far off any semblance of
civilization. Their remaining habitats however are influenced by human
activities. From the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s 11 bears were killed. Seven
bears were hunted und killed by border guards or members of geological
expeditions. The region had been unsettled by humans for thousands of years, so
that the Gobi bear was undisturbed. Another hazard originates from increasing
desertification due to global climate change. It has a strong impact on these already
extreme regions. As a consequence of diminishing food resources, the animals
are forced to migrate farther to find enough to eat. This certainly leads to
The rural population of the adjacent regions is completely ignorant of
the Gobi bear. For this reason, the people cannot contribute
to the preservation of the Gobi bear, although they are usually
very open towards the protection of species.
Another chance of survival for
the Gobi bear is the assumption that there existed additional populations in the
north of its current range until the 19th century. The bears however
were driven away due to increasing human settlement. Humans and bears competed for
the watering holes indispensable to life. As soon as humans had occupied a
watering hole, the bears had no chance to survive.
Sedated Gobi bear
The bear on the picture is not dead but it has been sedated for
Photo: National University,
The 2008’s expedition made it obvious that action urgently needs to be
taken for the protection of the Gobi bear. We were
able to find fresh traces – proving that the bear still exists in the
Trans-Altai Gobi. Furthermore we experienced a high degree of acceptance by
local inhabitants and decision-makers in Mongolia. These are
important prerequisites for setting up a centre in order to contribute to the
survival of the Gobi bear.
It is now important keep the wheels in motion. Public authorities and the
administration of the nature reserve have promised to support us. They have
offered us a building for the planned station.
Furnishings and equipment of the station however cannot be financed by their
We do not only want to offer our financial support but also our
know-how in how to manage biodiversity.
Modern means of communication, furnishings crucial for survival in the
desert and - above all - technical equipment are necessary to run the station.
We would greatly appreciate
if you supported this important conservation project!
A project of the National
University of Mongolia (NUM) and of the Bavarian Society for the Protection of
Birds (LBV) - an association for the protection of endangered species and biotopes