Greener Pastures

October 20, 2016

Mongolia's Eastern Steppe is one of Asia's last grassland wildernesses, home to vast open plains, rolling hills, and pristine wetlands. At 110,425 square miles, it's also more than twice the size of New York State. Our staff photographer, Julie Larsen Maher, recently visited with WCS Mongolia.

1. Horses

Horses are an important part of Mongolians' cultural heritage. Today, the number of domestic livestock in the area is growing and beginning to compete with wildlife for space.

Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

2. Bactrian camel

Local herders have formed a cooperative and collect salt from a hypersaline lake for sale in local markets. A centuries-old tradition, this represents one of the last remaining places in the world where people still harvest salt by hand. The camels are used to haul the raked and piled salt to the banks for transport to a regional city.

Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

3. Ussurian moose

The moose is shy and has unique antlers, resembling those of a young red deer.

Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

4. Mongolian gazelle

The eastern grasslands are a stronghold for Mongolian gazelle, which can be found living in herds of several thousand.

Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

5. Brandt's vole

These tiny rodents live in colonies and are found throughout Mongolia. Read more about them on our photo blog Wild View.

Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

6. A local herder

Mongolian herders living on the Eastern Steppe in traditional dwellings called "gers" are stakeholders in the steppe ecosystem.

Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

7. Mongolian gazelle

The Mongolian gazelle is facing increasing pressure from things like a growing livestock population, habitat fragmentation due to roads, railways, and fences, and industrial agriculture.

Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

8. Black stork

A rare visitor to the Eastern Steppe, the black stork here is likely making a stop on its migration.

Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

9. Cashmere goats

Cashmere goats are an important income source for herding families—Mongolia is famed for its cashmere. Yak wool is actually becoming a popular alternative fiber, too. It's more durable than cashmere and environmentally friendly (but slightly cheaper).

Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

10. A local herder

Most of the land on the Eastern Steppe is government-owned pasture used by the 200,000 nomadic herders living in small communities dotted across the landscape.

Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

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