GEOGRAPHY OF MONGOLIA
Mongolia is located in the very heart of Asia. It covers 1, 566, 500 square kilometers making it the 18th largest country in the world which is roughly the same size as Western Europe. Mongolia borders the Russian Federation in the north and the People’s Republic of China in the south.
With an average height of 1,580 meters above sea level, Mongolia is one of the highest countries in the world. The land is covered in mountains, deserts, and steppes. Three great ranges-the Mongol Altai (plus Gobi Altai), Khangai, and Khentii dominate the majority of Mongolian territory. The Mongol Altai has many summits reaching 4000 meters above sea level and stretches for 900 kilometers from the north-western part of the country to the south, through the territories of Bayan-Olgii and Khovd provinces. Over 20 peaks are capped with eternal snow in the Altai Mountain Range. These include Tavan Bogd, the highest peak of Mongolia measuring 4,374 meters above the sea level, Munkh Khairkhan (4,204 m), Sutai (4,226m), and Tsambagarav (4,195 m).
The lowest point – Khukh lake is 560 meters above sea level in Dornod province. Vast steppe areas dominate the southern and eastern parts of the country, mountain areas dominate the northern and western parts. There are quite enough water resources fed by rain and snow falling in the high mountains in Mongolia. There are 3500 freshwaters and salt lakes, 3811 rivers, and streams and 187 glaciers in Mongolia. Our country straddles the 6th, 7th, and 8th world time zones.
In Mongolia, the climate is strongly continental, with long, frigid winters and short, warm summers: the temperature range between winter and summer is definitely wide. Winter lasts from November to late April, Spring May through June. Summer continued from July through to September.
Precipitation is more abundant in the north, where it exceeds 300 millimeters (12 inches) per year, while in the south, which is desert, it drops below 200 mm (8 in) per year. Much of Mongolia is occupied by a plateau at an average altitude of 1,500 meters (4,900 feet), which tempers the summer temperatures. In the plateau, strong winds can blow, especially in spring. The average temperature in January ranges from around -32 °C (-26 °F) in the coldest areas of the north to around -15 °C (5 °F) in the south. At 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) above sea level, the daily average in July is around 13 °C (55.5 °F) in the far north, around 15 °C (59 °F) in the center-north, and 20 °C (68 °F) in the south. At 1,000 meters (3,300 feet), the daily average ranges from 16 °C (61 °F) in the north to 23 °C (73 °F) in the south. At the lowest altitudes and in the south, the summer can be considered hot. The areas located at low altitudes, around a thousand meters or less, are not very large. In the summer nights in most of Mongolia are generally cool (sometimes even cold) and the days are pleasant. READ MORE ABOUT CLIMATE OF MONGOLIA
Mongolia is the region of convergence and co-existence if flora which originates both from the Great Siberian Taiga and from the Central Asia Steppe and Desert. 975 species of the flowering plant out of the total, 3.000 registered species are used for traditional medicine of Mongolia.
Most of the plants are wild shrubs and bushes adapted to extreme weather conditions. The flowers have a wide range of colors and shapes. However, most of the flowers are smaller in size because of the small amounts of precipitation of rain in this country. There are about 150 endemic vascular and lower plants such as Stipa mongolorum, Adonis mongolica, Betula mongolica, Atraphaxis bracteata, Calligonum gobicum, Nanophyton mongolicm, Gymnocarpus przewalskii, Silene mongolica, Potanina mongolica, Chesneya mongolica, Astragalus gobicus, Oxytropis ulzii chutagii and Armisia gobica. The Khangai, Gobi-Altai, and Mongolian Altai regions have the most endemic species.
Leontopodium, commonly known as Edelweiss is a native plant of the Asian steppes growing at an altitude of 1700 m above sea level. The plant is well adapted to climatic extremes due to its deep fibrous route and felt like covering of its leaves which protect it from drought, strong winds, and potentially damaging sun. The flower white petals arranged in a star-like shape has medicinal value.
The most commonly found flower plant in Mongolia is Caryopteris, small shrubs with white or blue flowers that grow up to 4 meters. The aromatic leaves grow opposite to each other and when the flowers are blue they are often known by the name Blue Mist. These plants are used for making perfumes.
The diverse habits of Mongolia—including deserts, steppes, mountains, and taiga forests—and lack of humans translates to a wide variety of animal life, including 136 species of mammals, more than 400 species of birds, 76 species of fish, 8 types amphibians and 22 reptiles. Animals found in Mongolia include endangered Mongolian argali sheep, ibex, snow leopards, wolves, and herds of gazelles that can run fast 45mph. Animals encountered on the steppe include wolves, rabbits, and antelope.
Among the 28 endangered species of mammals in Mongolia are the argali sheep, ibex, snow leopards, and wild ass. The Gobi bear is extremely endangered. Only a few dozen are left. The Pallas cat, a yellowish wildcat about the size of a large house cat, is one of the rarest feline species.
Studies have shown that populations of some wild animals have declined markedly since the collapse of the Soviet Union. By some estimated the populations of endangered species—argali sheep, bears, Asiatic wild asses—have dropped by 50 to 90 percent. The Mongolian Constitution states that wildlife is a common resource of all the people. Even so, little effort has been to regulate and control hunting and the trade of wild animal furs, hides, and body parts.
Mongolia's forests and steppes abounded with animals that were hunted for their fur, meat, and other products in the late 1980s. Fur-bearing animals included marmots, muskrats, squirrels, foxes, korsak (steppe foxes), and wolves, which were hunted, and such animals as deer, sable, and ermine, which were raised on state animal farms. Animal pelts were exported in large numbers. In 1985 Mongolia exported more than 1 million small hides, which included some of the 763,400 marmot pelts, 23,800 squirrel skins, 3,700 wolf skins, and other furs. Marmot also was hunted for its fat, which was processed industrially. Mongolian gazelles were hunted for their meat, and red deer, for their antler velvet. Organized hunting of wild sheep was a foreign tourist attraction. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]
Book: Mongolia’s Wild Heritage (1999) by Christopher Finch.
WILD ANIMALS IN DIFFERENT REGIONS OF MONGOLIA
Natural vegetation in the Altai region includes steppe grasses, shrubs, and bushes and light forests of birch, fir, aspen, cherry, spruce, and pines, with many clearings in the forest. These forests merge with a modified taiga. Among the animals are the hare, mountain sheep, several species of deer, bobac, East European woodchucks, lynx, polecat, snow leopard, wolves, bears, Argali sheep, Siberian ibex, mountains goats, and deer. Bird species include pheasant, ptarmigan, goose, partridge, Altai snowcock, owls, snipe, and jay, In the streams and rivers, are trout, grayling, and the herring-like sig.
The Mongol word the Gobi can mean desert, depression, salt marsh, or steppe, but which usually refers to a category of arid rangeland with insufficient vegetation to support marmots but with enough to support camels. Gobi wildlife includes wild asses, Mongolian black and white tail gazelles, argali (wild sheep), snow leopard, steppe fox, Gobi desert bear, desert ibex, cranes, wild camels, eagles, hawks, and buzzards. In some places, there are thousands of gopherlike marmots and black-tailed gazelles. Since the early 20th century, the Gobi has been known as one of the world's premier dinosaur hunting sites.
Wildlife found in the central and northern forest areas of Mongolia includes wolf, wild boar, elk, roe deer, brown bear, wild cat, musk deer, marmot, muskrat, fox, steppe fox, and sable. In the lakes, there are Dalmatian pelicans, hooded cranes, relict gulls, shelducks, and bare-headed geese. The taiga forests are the same as the taiga that dominates Siberia. Trees found here include Siberian larch, which can reach a height of 45 feet, birch trees, and Siberian and Scotch pine. As one travels from north to south the forest becomes slightly less dense.
Hustai National Park ( 130 km / 60 miles southwest from Ulaan Baatar) is home to Asiatic red deer, wolves, boar, wild cat, wolf, lynx, and gazelles. Deer and gazelles are often spotted but sightings of the other animals are rare. The nearly extinct Mongolian wild Takhi, Przewalski's horse was successfully re-introduced in the grasslands and birch forests here in 1993.
There is a lot of wildlife in the Lake Khovsgol area, including 68 species of mammals, including moose, wolves, bears, sable, marmots and deer, nine species of fish, and scores of bird species, including storks and cranes. The Buriat, Darkhad, and Tsaatan minorities have traditionally lived around the lake. The Tsaatan reindeer herders have traditionally lived in the mountains to the northwest of the lake. Their reindeer are not allowed in the park around the lake because of the damage they cause.
POPULATION & ETHNIC DIVERSITY
The population of Mongolia is about 3 200 000 out of which 35% are nomadic herdsmen. The average population density is 2 people per square kilometers, making the country one of the scarcest populated nations on the planet. Mongolia is administratively divided into 21 aimags (provinces). The provinces divided into 348 sums (village) and districts in urban areas.
Nearly 95% of the population is comprised of ethnic Mongols, consisting of the Khalkha and other ethnic groups distinguished by dialects of the language. The Khalkha people make up 86% of the ethnic Mongols in the country, and the remaining 14% are comprised of Oirats, Buryats, Dorvod, and a few others (more than 20 different ethnic groups). Kazakh people account for 4.5% of the population, are the largest minority nation, and live mostly in western Mongolia’s Bayan-Olgii and Khovd provinces. There have been several migrations, including the arrival of Kazakhs from Xinjiang in the 1880s, and in recent years the departure of Kazakhs from Bayan-Olgii in large numbers to work in Kazakhstan. The Kazakhs are herdsmen who hunt with eagles.
The official language of the country is Mongolian, which is spoken by approximately 95% of the population. The population of the country as a whole is relatively young, with the average age being 27.5 years. About 59% of Mongolia's residents are under the age of 30, while over a quarter of that population is under the age of 14. The young population, coupled with a growth rate of 1.31%, has put a strain on the country's economy.
Nearly three-quarters of the Mongolian population lives in or around a major city, most of which is concentrated in one place. Approximately 45% of the country's population resides in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, boasting a population of 1.45 million according to data from 2017. Originally established as a nomadic Buddhist monastic center in 1639, it became permanently settles in 1778. This city is the only one in the country that has a population of more than 100,000. Erdenet, Mongolia's second-largest city, has a population of just around 95000, and the third-largest city of Darkhan is home to roughly 75,000.