Present status and threats affecting the Mongolian Khulan survival

. Present status of the Mongolian Khulan (Mongolian Wild Ass)


The largest remaining subspecies population of the Asiatic Wild Ass is the Mongolian Khulan (Equus hemionus hemionus), which is mainly living in the south of Mongolia (Gobi desert) with some small populations in the north of China (Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang province). However, this population is at risk and numbers have declined significantly from an estimated population size of 43,000 individuals in 1997 (Feh et al. 2001, Reading et al. 2001), and was estimated in 2003 at about 18,000 individuals in four areas in south of Mongolia (Lkhagvasuren 2007).


Offtake for the illegal meat trade is estimated at 3,000 individuals per year (Wingard and Zahler, 2006).

. What are the main threats affecting this sub-species survival ?


1) illegal hunting for meat and skins, for commercial use in some areas (Duncan 1992; Stubbe et al. 2005, Stubbe et al. 2007).


During research I and my team conducted from 2006 to 2010 in the Ömnögobi and Dornogobi aimags, with 3 field trips conducted as part of the "Mongolian Wild Ass conservation" project of the Association GOVIIN KHULAN, conducted during the summer 2008, the summer 2009, and the autumn 2010, we found some dead khulans due to illegal hunting, near water sources or close to roads (photos 1, 2 and 3), in both the Ömnögobi aimag and the Dornogobi aimag.


From interviews we conducted in 2008 and 2009, it seems that Khulan's meat is used in some traditional meals during the year as well as  during the Naadam festival, and is also sold on markets. Some people we interviewed also told us that Chinese people like very much Khulan’s meat and eat almost all parts of the body while Mongolian people only eat some specific parts of the body.


It also seems that some organs of Mongolian khulans are also used in traditional medicine. Khulan's lungs would be used to treat human bronchitis. Two people we met in a village of the southeast Gobi told us that some people killed khulans by throwing rocks on these animals to take their meat and organs… Information about illegal hunting of khulans was of course difficult to obtain and some rangers and friends living in these areas also helped us to obtain such information.


Further research and surveys are needed to  get much more information about illegal trade and use of the Mongolian Khulan for meat, and about use in the traditional medicine.

One of the Association GOVIIN KHULAN's objective is to conduct further research and surveys on these topics in collaboration with local and international specialists, and Mongolian rangers and people.



.Mr. BAYARJARGAL Batsukh found on May 2009, 4 big traps and 2 small traps from the hole of an Elm tree, just near 4 died khulans, in the Khanbogd sum (Ömnögobi aimag), close to a small dry river bed with elm trees (pictures 4, 5 and 6). These 4 big traps have been used to catch khulans.



2) habitat is being degraded through human settlements, resource extraction and building of roads, fences and railway lines, and possibly though grazing by increasing numbers of domestic livestock.



3) misunderstanding of the Mongolian Khulan behavior by the local population:

Nomadic herdsmen consider the Mongolian Khulan as the principal competitor with their livestock to access to water and pastures, because they think that: a) an increasing number of khulans are damaging the ground and pastures, b) khulans pollute water points and c) also prevent livestock access to water sources (Interviews conducted in 2008 and 2009, Anne-Camille Souris et al., papers and reports in preparation). But Mongolian khulans are migratory animals that regularly move from place to place and can move on long distances looking for grasses, water and undisturbed places …


4) a possible competition with domestic livestock:

Khulans were mainly observed in undisturbed areas. Also, this species, which is migratory, often move on long distances, looking for grasses and water and avoiding disturbance. During observations we conducted during the summer 2009 at natural open water points, wild asses were observed waiting in the surroundings of the water source and drinking preferentially during the night when livestock was no more at the water point, or during the day once domestic animals left the water point (observations conducted in 2008 and 2009, Anne-Camille Souris et al., paper in prep. / Photo 7).


In the Gobi desert, where natural water points are very rare and scarce (especially during typical hot summers) and pastures quality depend on availability of rain, such competition between khulans and domestic livestock to access to natural resources can prevent khulans to easily access to these vital resources.



Some results mentionned here were obtained during research Anne-Camille SOURIS with her team conducted from the summer 2006 to the fall 2010, in the Ömnögobi and Dornogobi aimags, completed by information collected by Mr. BAYARJARGAL Batsukh during his research in the Ömnögobi aimag during the spring 2009.


You are not allowed to use any materials published on this page (images, texts, information, ...) whithout the agreement of these two authors. If you wish to mention some of our results published here you need to contact us before. All materials published here are protected by international and french copyright laws. Thank you very much in advance for your understanding.


Information from other authors were obtained on the IUCN Red List page, and references of related publications are published bellow.




. Duncan, P. 1992. Zebras, asses, and horses: an Action Plan for the conservation of wild Equids. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. 

. Equid Specialist GroupIUCN[].

. Feh, C., Munkhtuya, B., Enkhbold, S. and Sukhbaatar, T. 2001. Ecology and social structure of the Gobi khulan Equus hemionus subsp. in: the Gobi B National Park, Mongolia. Biological Conservation, 101, 51–61.

. IUCN/SSC Equid Specialist Group, 2004. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan - Equids: Zebras, Asses and Horses. Edited by P. D. Moehlman.

. Lkhagvasuren et al., 2005. Current status and conservation of Khulan (E.h.hemionus) populations in Mongolia. Asiatic Wild Ass Conference, Hustai NP, Mongolia, 10-13 August 2005.

. Reading R., Mix H., Lkhagvasuren B., Feh C., Kane D., Dulamtseren S., and Enkhbold S., 2001. Status and distribution of Khulan, Equus hemionus, in Mongolia. Journal of Zoology, London, 254: 381-389.

. Stubbe et al. 2007. Erforschung Biologischer Ressourcen Der Mongolei (Halle/Saale), 2007 (10): 117-132)

. Stubbe et al. 2005. Erforschung Biologischer Ressourcen Der Mongolei (Halle/Saale), 2005 (9): 107-120)

. Wingard, J.R. and P. Zahler. 2006. Silent Steppe: The Illegal Wildlife Trade Crisis in Mongolia. Mongolia.


More information about the Mongolian Khulan and actions conducted by the Association GOVIIN KHULAN for this species protection:!/pages/Association-GOVIIN-KHULAN/119598524779600

published on June 18, 2011

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