“I don’t know when I will return home this time and I will also be unreachable via phone as I will be working in the mountains.”
This is just one of the examples of quick interactions Galdanjamts L. has with his wife Gantuya D. before he leaves for work. Unlike many of us, his office is located deep within the forest and mountain often only accessible by a hiking.
Galdanjamts is a leader of the voluntary local herder community striving to protect the endangered species in Mongolia. These days, the partnership and the community are focusing on the protection of musk deer, registered in the Red Book of Mongolia as an “endangered species” and “vulnerable species” in the Red List of International Union for Conservation of Nature. Under the supervision and support of the professional research organizations, researchers and UNDP, they have successfully made the first step to reintroduce the deer to its natural habitat few months ago.
Mongolia is not an exception to the rapidly decreasing biodiversity globally and there are hundreds of species including animals and plants registered as endangered. Musk deer is one of the severely affected victims of the depleting biodiversity in Mongolia as 70% of its population was lost within just 30 years.
Weighing just up to 15 kilograms and with life expectancy of up to 12 years, musk deer is named as the “Forest Police” thanks to its unique whistling sound it makes during potential danger alerting the other animals according to local zoologist Delegnyam D. One of the main reasons of the rapid decline of the musk deer is poaching despite the ban on hunting since 1953 in Mongolia.
Locals call Galdanjamts “Khuder Galdaa – Musk Deer Galdaa” due to his dedication and care for protecting the deer. His admiration of the deer began years ago as he said “I had a chance to see musk deer in the forest when I was a child. However, due to illegal hunting, we don’t see it anymore. I am proud of our joint work to protect Mongolia's critically endangered wildlife and leave them over to our future generations.”
Wildlife conservationist is a tough job. “Sometimes, we have to work during bad weather conditions such as storms, blizzards, rain and snow” said Galdanjamts. Sometimes, he also gets into argument with local people and tourists who want to see the musk deer to ensure that they don’t scare and stress the musk deer.
Both Gantuya and Galdanjamts agree that illegal logging and poaching as well as livestock guardian dogs are the main threats, they see for the musk deer. Also, the food is becoming increasingly scarce for the animals due to the overgrazing by livestock. Gantuya said, “Grass used to grow as tall as sheep’s height twenty years ago but now it only grows ankle high. I wish the herders consider reducing their livestock size.”
She also stressed the need for providing information and guidance to the herder community and said, “We need to have the experts come to the bagh – lowest local administrative unit - meetings and tell the community about why we need to protect and preserve the wild animals.”
“The loss of biodiversity is one of the major issues in Mongolia that needs urgent attention. People need to be made aware of the decreasing biodiversity and its importance to the overall ecosystem in addition to taking concrete actions to preserve the precious wildlife. We are pleased to have provided support in reintroducing the musk deer” said Erdenebileg B., National Project Coordinator for the “Ensuring Sustainability and Resilience of Green Landscapes in Mongolia” project funded by the Global Environmental Facility and jointly implemented by UNDP and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.
Gantuya and Galdanjamts have four children and their eldest is pursuing degree in forest management taking up after their passion which they could not have been prouder. They stressed the importance of teaching children from early on how they should treat wildlife and nature with care and encouraged all parents to do the same.
When asked what motivates them to care for the wildlife, they said “Wouldn’t it be better to take your children and show them the actual animal in the wilderness instead of having them read about this animal that once lived on earth?”
Indeed, would it not be better?