Batbaatar and I just returned from an action-packed trip to Nomgon in South Gobi. We are fortunate enough to be partnered with WCS Mongolia and teamed up with them for this trip; while we conducted interviews of families to receive Bankhar puppies, they collected cashmere samples from herders involved in their cooperative program. This also allowed us the opportunity to work more closely with community leaders of the cooperative, integrating more local involvement in our selection process.
Many herders belong to cooperatives that operate out of soum centers (local districts, sort of like a county). Cooperatives vary widely in Mongolia, but their main purpose is to help herders market their products more effectively and and organize as a community to create more economic stability. Specifically in Nomgon, many herders belong to the cashmere cooperative supported by WCS which aims to incentivize higher quality cashmere.
One of the highlights of the trip was seeing two of the project’s dogs in action. We were driving East to Nomgon when we passed a herd that we knew to be Dalaisaikhan’s, one of the herders working with us. As soon as we were in sight of the herd, guess who sounded the alarm? Arslan and Erslan! A pair of Bankhar placed last year. We were overjoyed to see how well they stayed by their herd and barked at what could have been a threat (our truck) even without their owner around to give them commands. Even after we approached to get measurements, the two guardians remained wary of their herd. We spent a few minutes checking them over for any health concerns, and measured and weighed them. But as soon as Batbaatar said the Mongolian command for “go to the herd” they turned tail and went right back to work! We were both so happy to see them healthy and loving life, and extremely grateful to the herders that take on the task of raising these awesome dogs as livestock guardians.
Early on in our trip, MBDP attended cooperative meetings where we met the cooperative leader Bat-Erdene, other group leaders, and the governor or Nomgon! A main goal of MBDP is to cultivate community involvement; the tradition of Bankhar and livestock guardian dogs belong to the Mongolian people, so working within their cooperative structure and heeding the guidance of their leadership is critical to us.