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ABOUT MAZAALAI TRAVEL IN MONGOLIA

Blog | published: 2019-05-05

Since 2015 Blue Mongolia Tour agency marketing department and tour arrangement department initiated the Mazaalai Travel – Gobi Bear Travel and offer the first tour program to the tourism field. Since that time every year Blue Mongolia agency contributes it’s own role into conservation and projects dedicated to Mazaalai. Our Mazaalai trip is arranged in the territory of Great Gobi National Park, which is the real home and paradise for Gobi desert rare animals: gobi bear, wild camels, wild asses, antelopes, gobi desert wolves, gobi foxes and so other wildlife of gobi desert area. The trip is organized in the hard and tough conditions of spring time and this travel is only for bear lovers and bear watchers.

In order to reach the Gobi desert national park, you need to drive at least 2 days in one way in paved and earth dirt road up to 1300 km and then you will drive in the national park area for whole 7-10 days until you find 1 of 30 gobi desert bears in 400 km wide and 300 km long territory of Great Gobi National Park area. The Great Gobi National park is territory of wildlife and no any of nomad families live in this national park area. We call this place as a remote wildlife area and this place can be only for animals, not for humans.       

The Gobi Bear, Ursus arctos gobiensis (known in Mongolian as the mazaalai/Мазаалай), is a subspecies of the brown bear, Ursus arctos, that is found in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. It is listed as critically endangered by the Mongolian Redbook of Endangered Species and by the Zoological Society of London. The population included only around 30 adults in 2009 and is separated by enough distance from other brown bear populations to achieve reproductive isolation. This is a bear in the world which needs our help. It is the Gobi bear, also known as Mazaalai which are listed as Critically Endangered in the Mongolian Red book of Endangered Species and it is an ancient sub-species of the brown bear. 2010 research estimate indicated that a minimum of 22‐31 (CI = 95%) Gobi bears remain in the wild, including at least 8 females and 14 males. The population fluctuates each year due to the harsh climate and shortage of food and water. They may have to go 20 or 30 kilometers between one drink to another. And to get from one mount range to the next, they may have to go 40 to 60 kilometers, sometimes even 100. So they have to know a lot about how to live in an environment where resources are so scarce, so intelligence is a part of their survival. They are superbly adapted to low food availability and harsh environment of the Gobi Desert, where annual temperature may vary between 46°C in summer to ‐34°C in winter. Gobi bears occupy three main areas, or oasis complexes, within the 45,784‐km2 Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area.

Gobi bears have very little genetic diversity, among the lowest ever observed in any species of brown bear. Levels of genetic diversity similar to the Gobi bears have been reported only in a small population of brown bears in the Pyrenees Mountains on the border of Spain and France. Mazaalai is the only Bear specie that lives wild in the desert on the entire Earth. Mazaalai is the last preserved Bear specie that does not live in the zoo in other places. Mazaalai is the same cute and rare bear specie as Panda and Koala who enjoy worldwide care and conservation. Mazaalai is not only Mongolia’s nature given national gift, but he is a treasure of the worldwide wildlife kingdom6 Mazaalai must be available for our future generations to enjoy & learn about this rare animal.

Gobi bears mainly eat roots, berries, and other plants, big wingless grasshoppers, sometimes rodents; there is no evidence that they prey on large mammals. Small compared to other brown bear subspecies, adult males weigh about 96.0–138.0 kg (211.6–304.2 lb) and females about 51.0–78.0 kg (112.4–172.0 lb).

They go to hibernation in the 1st of November, and don’t come out until March. And so they have to rely on the fat that they build up from eating the vegetation during the summer to do that. So they sleep all that time, and they don’t urinate or defecate the whole time. Female Mazaalai gives birth while hibernating and come out of hibernation with their 2 cute cubs.

Mazaalai has an extra thick hair compared to a lot of other brown/grizzly bears. Why is that is because they can’t burrow into the earth because there’s no dirt in Gobi, there’s only rock. So they’re wintering exposed. In other words, they need insolation, and they’re lean. They don’t have much body fat. So for insolation, they have this very thick underfur and very thick guard hair. To me that was very striking because when I first saw a Gobi bear, it looked like what we call bed hair. It had just come out of a shower into a hurricane, and it had dried. It was really shaggy.

Mazaalai are very short and they’re all splintered, cracked and they’re worn down to nothing because they live their life walking on rocks, and digging for the roots of wild rhubarb and other foods. It’s just quite different than most brown bears.

Their life expectancy is, for females, 20-24, and for males, 16-20. They don’t live as long as other brown bears because their teeth wear down as a result of all the digging through the rocks to find their food. The mothers teach their offspring the things that they need to survive.

In the early spring of this year, in Tsogt soum of Gobi-Altai aimag, a mazaalai with twin cubs was spotted by wildlife keepers. Research teams, including Bear International Association, Institute of General and Experimental Biology at Mongolian Academy of Sciences, and 'Gobi Bear” team of the Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area have been jointly carrying-out studies in the region since 2011. They recently caught a male bear to put a collar around his neck for further studies.                                                                                             
In last years, 3 tons of forage were placed in the Gobi Bear habitat areas in the southern Gobi before the hibernation of Gobi Bear started and 8 tons of forage when they emerged from their hibernation. 

Gobi bears are small compared to most other members of the brown bear family. Female adults weigh only 51‐78 kg and males only 96‐138 kg. Their fur is light brown in color, but with a noticeably darker head, belly and legs. Patches or natural collars of lighter fur is often present on the neck or shoulder of individuals are also a distinguishing characteristic. 

Narrated by Blue Mongolia team

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