Dec. 7th 2016
We returned a few days ago from Ikh Nart, my first trip to interview herders to potentially receive puppies this year. The nature reserve’s diverse landscape gave me the opportunity see some more interesting wildlife (Mongolian gazelles and longhorn sheep, no ibex this time), and my first time seeing camels!
Ikh Nart is a 66,000 hectare protected area, established by the local community in partnership with the Denver Zoo. Four different cooperatives operate in the reserve, each with a different focus (agricultural development, conservation, construction, and handicrafts). Wolves are known to inhabit the rocky areas of the reserve and herders report varying degrees of livestock losses due to predation – so it is certainly a place of interest for MBDP.
We experienced the many of the variables and challenges that come along with doing fieldwork in the countryside. On our first day there, we visited about seven ger camps and no one was home at five of them! I’m learning more and more how this work is never cut-and-dry. We have also been trying to use a specific protocol for picking herders by going through co-op leaders and recommendations from administrators, but we’re coming to see that not all co-ops are organized the same way, and the realities of Mongolia are untouched by our desire to have a repeatable and consistent protocol. Regardless, we were able to meet several interested families. It’s a really exciting step in the process to start meeting herders and hearing about their lives, their herding practices, and what they think of our project. It also gives me the chance to see a ton of different gers!
Not to mention, we came across one of my favorite things – ancient rock art! Batmonkh, an administrator for Ikh Nart and our guide, told us these were likely 3,000 years old. Unfortunately, several parts of the rock had been defaced.
The camels were another highlight of the trip. They definitely had some attitude. These weren’t wild camels, but they seemed wary of humans. Or at least, they looked like they wanted to spit on me.