2 Million Animals Died From Starvation, Exhaustion As Mongolia Suffers From Winter Weather

More than two million animals have died in Mongolia this winter, a government official said Monday, as the country experiences harsh cold and snow.

Malnutrition And Exhaustion Due To Winter

From December to March, the landlocked country experiences harsh weather, with temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius (minus 58 Fahrenheit) in some locations.

However, this winter has been more harsh than normal, with below-average temperatures and considerable snowfall, according to a recent United Nations assessment.

2.1 million animals have died from malnutrition and weariness, according to Gantulga Batsaikhan of the country’s agriculture ministry.

According to government data, Mongolia had 64.7 million such animals as of the end of 2023, including sheep, goats, horses, and cows.

Read Also: Cold Weather Adaptations: Yakutian Horses Rapidly Evolve Defense Against Extremely Cold Temperatures

Dzuds In Mongolia

Dzuds, a peculiar slow-onset disaster unique to Mongolia, are extreme winters characterized by freezing temperatures, heavy snow, and ground so frozen that animals cannot reach pasture, which usually results in the deaths of a large number of livestock.

According to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the frequency and intensity of dzuds have increased since 2015, owing to the intensifying effects of climate change and inadequate environmental governance.

This winter, the dual “white” and “iron” dzud is distinguished by a very heavy snow cover that prevents animals from accessing grass (white dzud), as well as a short thaw and subsequent hard freeze that seals up pastures in ice.

Mongolia has seen six dzuds in the last decade, notably in the winter of 2022-2023, when 4.4 million head of cattle died.

This year’s dzud was compounded by a summer drought, which prevented animals from accumulating enough fatty stores to withstand the hard winter.

It is also reported that 70% of Mongolia is facing “dzud or near dzud” conditions. This is compared to 17% of the country at the same time in 2023.

“The winter started with heavy snow but suddenly air temperatures rose, and the snow melted. Then the temperatures dropped again, turning the melting snow into ice,” said herder Tuvshinbayar Byambaa.

The worst dzud on record occurred in the winter of 2010-2011, killing almost 10 million animals, accounting for nearly a quarter of the country’s entire livestock at the time.

Snowfall this year, the biggest since 1975, has exacerbated herders’ problems, keeping them in colder places and preventing them from purchasing food and hay for their animals from adjacent towns.

Mongolia is one of the world’s most sparsely inhabited countries, with around one-third of its 3.3 million people living nomadic lifestyles.

The government has committed to assist, initiating a campaign to provide hay feed to herders in an effort to avert future losses of critical commodities such as meat and cashmere, one of the country’s major exports.

But for the time being, Tuvshinbayar and his fellow herders can only hope for better weather.

“It is becoming too hard to be a herder – we suffer drought and flood in summer and dzud in winter. I’ll start losing my animals if the snow does not melt in the coming months,” he added.

Related Article: How To Help Wild Animals During Winter?

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