Khomyn Tal’s Takhi population reaches 100The Mongol Messenger
Zavkhan /MONTSAME/ The Przewalski's horse (Takhi) population in Durvuljin soum of Zavkhan aimag has reached 100. On July 22, a foal was born from a mare named Sharga. Since May, eleven foals have been born, ten of which are live births. Approximately, the same number of foals are expected to be born by autumn this year.
Takhi status has been upgraded from extinct in the wild, then critically endangered to endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), thanks to successful reintroduction in three locations in Mongolia. The Takhis in Khomyn Tal (Khom Steppe) in Zavkhan aimag, whose population has been increasing under the Takhi Reintroduction and Environmental Protection Program, have already adapted to their native habitat.
12 Takhis were first reintroduced to Durvuljin soum from France in 2004, followed by 10 more in 2005, and four from Czech in 2011. Incidentally, a mare named Robin gave birth to the first foal of this year – a female one - on the morning of May 6.
Khomyn Talyn Takhi NGO has been doing observations and aside from one or two incidents, where one of them dies due to severe weather and wolf predation, the Takhi population is increasing smoothly. Also, Mongolia program office of the Association for the Przewalski horse of France, TAKH, has been implementing the Takhi Reintroduction and Environmental Protection Program in the Khomyn Tal National Park since 1998 and thanks to the program, Takhis have been successfully reintroduced to places around Ikh Nuuruudyn Khotgor (Great Lakes Depression) in western Mongolia with unique geographical and climatic features.
Khomyn Tal becomes National Park
In July 2019, the Mongolian government decided to take some natural areas under Special Protection of the Government of Mongolia to protect their wilderness, unique formations, natural features of historical and cultural importance, rare flora and fauna. One of these sites is Khomyn Tal in Zavkhan aimag, a third place in Mongolia, where Przewalski’s horses have been successfully reintroduced to wilderness since 2004, a place of unique natural diversity, a buffer zone of Khar Us Lake National Park which includes several places of importance for migratory birds and places listed under RAMSAR Convention.
Khomyn Tal National Park in Durvuljin soum of Zavkhan aimag therefore has become a National Park. The matter of taking the area under special protection had been under discussion since 2017.
According to Khomyn Talyn Takhi NGO, Khomyn Tal was taken under special protection based on the following justifications elaborated by WWF Mongolia, TAKH and Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Biology Institute.
1. Natural island of desert-steppe surrounded by large lakes, sand dunes and rivers, migration corridor for numerous species of ungulates. This ecosystem is of immense value in terms of biodiversity–habitat to 31 out of 69 species of wildlife listed in the IUCN Red List 1994, namely, Przewalski’s horse, snow leopard, ibex, black-tailed gazelle, saiga and wild boar.
2. According to Ministry of Nature and Environment of Mongolia and The Nature Conservancy Mongolia joint ‘Ecological regions evaluation’ of nine sites candidates for special protection, conducted in 2017, Khomyn Tal was identified as a place of utmost ecological importance needing conservation.
3. Being the 3rd reintroduction site for Przewalski’s horse where the initial 22 horses were brought in 2004 and 2005 by TAKH Association of France, and four more horses were brought from Prague Zoo, Czech Republic in 2011, Khomyn Tal has successfully safeguarded the Takhi with financial support of MAVA, Switzerland.
4. As recommended by IUCN, to restore a viable population of Przewalski’s horse in the nature requires raising no less than five independent populations in different geographical locations. By taking this area under special protection, the Government of Mongolia will be able to demonstrate its commitment to international conventions and raise its reputation internationally.
5. Baga Nuur Lake (southern part of Khomyn Tal) is listed as an internationally significant place for migratory birds–Important Bird Area (IBA number MN016, MN017), habitat to very rare Relict Gull, Dalmatian Pelican, whitetailed eagle. The neighboring Khar Us Lake and Durgon Lake listed as RAMSAR site #976 in 1999 are also a reason for taking Khomyn Tal under protection.
6. The biodiversity and natural peculiarity of the area, especially, the reintroduced Przewalski’s horses constitute a solid base for developing a scientific research-based tourism, bring national and international investment, increase local residents’ livelihood through tourism-related services and trade and thus, raise some funds for long-term conservation work.
7. By taking Khomyn Tal under special protection, naturally growing sea-buckthorn bush expanses, the largest in Mongolia, can be harvested to benefit the local households. In addition, Khomyn Tal is an area urgently requiring protection from mining.
In 2004-2005, 22 Takhis were brought to Khomyn Tal, a buffer zone of Khar Us Lake National Park, from a special protected area in France. 14,000 ha area has been taken under protection and the animal’s behavior is being observed in collaboration with local herders.
Khomyn Talyn Takhi’s utmost goal has been to put down the protection fences and send the wild horses back into the wilderness. To prevent mating between the wild and domestic horses, the organization is focusing on the creation of living environments suitable for the animals.
Bigger habitat more important to Takhis
Bigger habitat is the most important for conserving and increasing the Takhi population. The best way of conserving Takhi population is to take the regions inhabited by the wild horses under state protection and expand the areas already taken under special protection as the transfers of Takhis to strictly protected and more favorable regions have not been producing satisfactory results. This will not only protect the Takhis, but also the rare flora and fauna of the regions.
‘Birds of Khomyn Tal’ photo book released
‘Birds of Khomyn Tal’ photo book created by Khomyn Talyn Takhi NGO in collaboration with numerous researchers, photographers, and locals was released this year. The book features photographs of a total of 141 species of resident and migratory birds of Khomyn Tal with research-based information about the birds. The field guide featuring interesting facts and photographs depicting the lives of birds was published in both Mongolian and English.
Annual summer course for local children
Since 2008, Khomyn Talyn Takhi NGO has been organizing a summer course for children living around Khomyn Tal to make the younger generation love and protect the nature. Around 30 children gain knowledge on water circulation, plant structure and development, and various other scientific subjects from researchers, postgraduates, and TAKH ranger O.Munkhtogtokh in a week-long training session. The most recent training session provided knowledge about desertification for over 60 children including 13 members of a local school eco club.
The example of one of the first stu dents of the course who is now a Takhi conservation officer shows that the effort has paid off. The nongovernmental or ganization has been partnering with the local community – semi-nomadic people from over 60 households–for 16 years through herders’ meetings and summer courses to promote sustainable livestock farming and protect Takhi and its habitats from harm. So far, more than 300 children have taken part in the summer course, learning about climate change, wildlife, conservation of the globally endangered Takhi, and its population, behavior, and attributes.
Crafts made by Khomyn Tal locals in high demand in France
Brun De Vian-Tirant of France started close cooperation with the French Association TAKH towards increasing herder income generation in support of sustainable development through purchase of baby camel wool from camel herders. The company that produces luxury products from wool has launched the Khomyn Tal brand of products made from Khomyn Tal baby camel wool. Last year’s Christmas special of the company was a product made from Khomyn Tal baby camel wool.
Local camel herders have been increasing their incomes and becoming more willing to have bigger camel herds by annually supplying wool to the company. Also, the herder women in Khomyn Tal who founded the ‘Amiable Ladies cooperative, have been making and selling felt crafts since 2008 with their skills gained through a craft course provided under a project. 15 members are currently making 150 types of felt products that become available for sale in France every summer.
Khomyn Talyn Takhi supports cooperatives between the locals and herders from other regions and help them put their felt and camel wool products on international markets.