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Unique Wildlife Sightings of The Gobi Desert Animals

If you’re considering a Mongolia tour, you’re probably surfing the web, trying find the best spot for unique wildlife sightings

What I can tell you, is if the Gobi Desert was on your list, move it up to the first position!

The Gobi Desert is a jewel embedded in Mongolia, famous for its diversity in terms of hosting fascinating creatures and unique wildlife.

In fact, some of the species that you can find there in the modern day are an extremely rare find anywhere else. For example, the snow leopards, the Bactrian camels, Mazaalai bear to name just a few.

These are my unique and favourite 9 of the Gobi Desert animals to look out for:

1. Wild Bactrian Camel

This is a critically endangered animal of the camel species. It’s closely related to Bactrian camel and resembles it closely. Genetically, however, the two species descended from two distinct ancestors.

The wild Bactrian camel is slightly smaller than the domestic Bactrian with lower, more conical humps. It also has a flatter skull. Hence its Mongolian nickname – khavtgai or "flat-head.”

The wool of the wild Bactrian camel is always sandy coloured and shorter and sparser than that of domestic Bactrian camels.

There are only about 450 left in Mongolia making it the 8th most endangered large mammal on earth.

The Bactrian camel has long eyelashes and nostrils that are able to seal, enabling it to cope with the harsh desert sand storms.

2. Snow Leopard

The snow leopard is distinguished by its thick white-grey coat with large black spots. It has long and powerful back legs that enable it to leap almost six times the length of its body as it preys on wild goats and sheep.

The snow leopard is about 6 to 7.5 feet in length. Its long tail provides balance and also wraps around it as protection from the cold.

There are only between 4,500 and 7,000 of snow leopards left in the world. Mongolia’s population is estimated to be between 1,000 and 1,200, with about a quarter leaving in the mountains of the South Gobi region.

3. Gobi Bear 

The Gobi bear (or Mazaalai as it’s called in Mongolian) is a subspecies of the brown bear.

Currently, less than 40 individuals are left in the World, with Mongolian part of the Gobi Desert being their single habitat.

Mazaalai is the only species of bear that dwells exclusively in the desert.

The bears occupy three main oasis complexes located in a specially designated region known as ‘Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area – Zone A’ or simply ‘Gobi A.’ The same area is also home to wild Bactrian camel.

4. Przewalski's Horses (or Takhi)

Przewalski's horse or takhi is a rare and endangered horse native to the steppes of Central Asia.

By mid-20th century the Przewalski’s horse became extinct in the wild, with only 31 animals surviving in the zoos around the globe.

Researchers managed to breed nine of those animals and by 1965 the population of Przewalski’s horses reached over 130 animals.

In the 1990s, the horse population became big enough to start reintroduce the animals to its native habitat.  The first place the horses were reintroduce to was Khustain Nuruu National Park in Mongolia.

There are roughly 2,000 takhi in the world right now. The largest number of them still lives at Khustai Nuruu National Park.

Przewalski's horse has long been considered the only 'true,' never domesticated wild horse. However, recent genetical research suggested that takhi may be descendants of the domesticated horses of the Botai culture.

5. Asiatic Wild Ass (or Khulan)

The Khulan is another one of the endangered species in Mongolia. Its population has declined globally by more than 50% over the past two decades considering it is only found in the Southern Mongolia and parts of Northern China today.

Mongolia’s population comprises 80 percent of the total global population. It’s estimated to be around 35,000-40,000 individuals.

Wild asses are actively chased away or even illegally hunted due to the competition with domestic livestock on the limited resources that exist.

6. Argali Wild Sheep

Argali is the largest species of wild sheep that can stand up to 135 cm high at the shoulder. The rams can weigh from 97 to well over 300 kg.

In Mongolia, the Argali species inhabits a variety of regions from Altai Mountains to mountainous areas of the northern Gobi Desert. However, it is sparsely found in the area of Lake Khovsgol. 

Argali has several subspecies, the largest one being Altai Argali inhabiting Altai Mountain Range.

It has also been listed by the IUCN as an endangered species and hence has been legally protected by the Mongolian laws where its hunting is prohibited unless granted a rare official permit.

7. Gobi Pit Viper

The Gobi pit viper is one of the most dangerous snakes in the Gobi Desert due to it high degree of aggressiveness and very toxic venom.

However, in many instances it withdraws timidly, posing very little or no danger at all depending on its locality.

The Gobi pit viper mostly stays active throughout the day except when the weather is too hot where it would then become more active during the night.

Some of its other common names include; Mongolian pit viper, Central Asian viper, Amur viper among others.

8. Mongolian Saiga

This endangered species of Saiga antelope is found in south and east Mongolia. It inhabits steps and flatlands while avoiding mountainous and uneven/bumpy areas.

Its population is estimated to be less than 4,000 individuals, with population rapidly decreasing due to harsh natural conditions, habitat degradation caused by livestock, poaching, and attacks of predators/carnivores.

The Mongolian saiga has an unusually long nose which allows the animal to warm up a cold winter air it reaches lungs and to filter out summer desert dust.

Saiga forms large herds of up to 1000 individuals. The species regularly moving up to 1000 km.

9. Mongolian Gerbil

The Mongolian Gerbill is gentle and hardy small animal of the rodent species is easily found in the Gobi Desert.

This animal in the 19th century was mostly used in science for laboratory testing and also kept as a small house pet.

The Mongolian Gerbils usually live in pairs or groups and are social and gentle creatures that do not easily bite.