Winters in the Gobi desert are usually long and very cold but the winter of 2009-2010 was particularly severe. Millions of livestock died in Mongolia and the re-introduced wild Przewalski's horse population crashed dramatically. Petra Kaczensky and Chris Walzer from the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna have used spatially explicit loss statistics, ranger survey data and GPS telemetry to provide insights into the effect of a catastrophic climate event on wild horses, wild asses and livestock.
In Mongolia, extreme weather conditions droughts followed by cold and snowy winters occur at irregular intervals. However, the dzud of 2009/10 was the most extreme winter Mongolia had experienced in the past 50 years. Fifteen out of Mongolia's twenty-one provinces were declared disaster zones and over 7.8 million livestock, 17% of the national stock, are believed to have perished.
Przewalski's horses have been re-introduced intto Mongolia since 1992 and there are now free-ranging populations in Hustai National Park in central Mongolia and in the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area (SPA) in south-western Mongolia. Due to its special location at the fringe of the Dzungarian basin, flanked by high mountains, the Great Gobi B SPA received particularly high amounts of snowfall in the winter of 2009/2010. Most snow came with weather from the west and when the snow clouds hit the Altai Mountains on the eastern edge of the Great Gobi B SPA they discharged large amounts of snow, resulting in a strong east-west gradient in snow depth. The high, tightly packed snow made it hard for animals to gain access to the vegetation under the snow.
Herders in and around the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area were severely affected by the dzud and lost on average 67% of their livestock. Although herders are semi-nomadic, it was hard for them to escape the worst of the weather as competition for the available winter camps was high. Przewalski's horses were f
|Contact: Petra Kaczensky|
University of Veterinary Medicine -- Vienna