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MONGOLIA

Mongolia In Brief

Location

Located in the plateau of Central Asia between China and Russian Siberia, Mongolia covers an area of 1,566,500 sq.km, which is roughly the size of Western Europe. Mongolia stretches about 2,400 kilometers from west to east and about 1,260 kilometers from north to south. The total length of the country's border is 8,158 kilometers.

The country in mountainous with an average altitude of 1,580 meters above sea level, which makes Mongolia one of the highest countries in the world. The lowest point, Huh Nuur Depression, is 560 meters above sea level and the highest point is Huiten Mountain in the Mongolian Altai Range (4,374 m). The capital Ulaanbaatar lies at 1,380 meters.

The geography of the country is characterized by great diversity. From north to south, it can be divided into four areas:

 

mountain-forest steppe, mountain steppe and, in theextreme south, semi-desert and desert (the latter being about 30% of the entire territory). In contrast to most visitors' expectations, much of the country's territory is mountainous. The principal mountains are concentrated in the west, with much of this region having elevations above 2,000 meters. The country's highest peaks are permanently snow-capped land covered with glaciers.

Mountains and dense forest predominate central and northern Mongolia . The grasslands cover large areas of this region. Across the eastern part of the country stretches the vast grasslands of the Central Asian steppe. The steppe grades into the Gobi desert, which extends throughout southern Mongolia from the east to the west of the country. The Gobi Desert is mostly gravely, but also contains large areas of sand dunes in the drier areas of the Gobi near the southern border.

The country is dotted with hundreds of lakes, the largest being Uvs-Nuur (covering an area of 3,350 sq.km), Huvsgul (2,620 sq.km), and Har Us-Nuur (1,852 sq.km). Lake Huvsgul is also the largest fresh-water lake in Central Asia . The Orhon (1,124 kilometers), the Herlen (1,090 kilometers) and the Selenge (539 kilometers) are the largest rivers. (Detialed descriptions of geographic places of the country are included in Travel Destinations section of this book)

Climate

Mongolia 's climate is very dry with extreme continental temperatures. Humid air from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are blocked by the huge Central Asian mountain ranges. Although Mongolian winters are long and famously cold, with temperatures dropping as low as-50 degrees centigrade in the far north of the country, summers are generally pleasant. (See Table 1).

The mean temperature falls below freezing for seven to eight months of the year. For two or three months in summer, the weather is warm and pleasant and relatively hot in the southern Gobi region, where mid summer temperatures peak at around 40 degrees and there is little shade available.

Winter usually lasts from mid-October until April, with the coldest period being between mid-December and the end of February or mid-March when the temperature drops to -20 or -30 C and occasionally even lower. Snow usually falls between mid-October and mid-April. There are some regions, especially in the northwest, where the temperature goes down to -40 to -50 C. In the Gobi it drops to -40 C.

Spring, which generally starts in March, is known for its constant dust storms and huge fluctuations in air pressure. The steppe gradually starts to sprout fresh, green pasture and even in the capital, the change is both visible and welcome.

Summer evenings in the Western Altai range tend to be cooler and local nomads have to wear warm and heavy clothes.

The annual rain fall begins in late July and continues until September. Humidity is generally low (47-73%), especially in winter. But in the country the number of sunny days ranges between 220 and 260 a year.

Climate of Mongolia by Months

Months

Average temperature (Degree C)

Precipitation (mm)

January

-26.1

1.5

February

-21.7

1.9

March

-10.8

2.2

April

+0.5

7.2

May

+8.3

15.3

June

+14.9

48.8

July

+17.0

72.6

August

+15.0

47.8

September

+7.6

24.4

October

-1.7

6.0

November

-13.4

3.7

December

-24.0

1.6

Wildlife

Flora

Mongolia has diverse vegetation that includes an important part of Central Asia 's plant life. Plant species representative of Siberia's coniferous taiga forest, Central Asian steppe and desert, and the Altai Mountains are found here. Over 3000 vascular plants, 927 lichens, 437 mosses, 875 fungi, and numerous algae have been recorded up to date. There are many other species still to be classified. 150 species are endemic to Mongolia and more than 100 plant species are recorded as rare or endangered.

Fauna

Like its vegetation, Mongolia features diverse wildlife species from the Siberian forest, the steppe and desert. Mongolia has 136 mammal species, more than 400 different types of birds, 76 species of fish, 8 amphibians, and 22 reptiles. From the abundance of wolves to the globally endangered snow leopard, there is a myriad of wildlife to track, photograph and hunt.

The central and northern forest area is home to wolf, wild boar, elk, roedeer, and brown bear. Steppe and forest margins support marmot, muskrat, fox, steppe fox, and sable.

Western high Altai Mountain boasts a rich wildlife. Apart from common wolf and wild cats, such as lynx and snow leopard, Altai is home to the word's largest wild sheep-argali and Siberian ibex.

Species endemic to Central Asia are found primary in the Gobi desert and steppe including the Mongolian subspecies of the saiga antelope, four specie of jerboa, and a vole. The Gobi desert and the eastern Mongolian steppe are inhabited by thousands of gazelles. The rarest animal in the world-the Gobi bear is found in the south-western part of Gobi . Wild ass and wild camels are abundantly found in the desert while argali and Gobi ibex also inhabit the rocky mountains within the Gobi region. Takhi known as Przewalski horse, which is the last remaining true wild horse has been reintroduced to the country from captivity abroad after being unseen for about thirty years in their home country.

Bird life is rich and included the golden eagle, bearded vulture and other birds of prey, while the country's 2000 lakes are a magnet for water birds including storks and gulls. The east of Mongolia is famous for its birds life, boasting lakes of storks and pelicans, while vultures can be seen at will across the country and species as rare as the Altai snowcock and the mute swan are still observed in the countryside.

Population

The population of Mongolian is 2.373.500 (official estimate 2001), out of which 45% are nomadic herdsmen. Most of Mongolia 's large land is very scarsely populated. The average population density is 1.5 per square kilometer, making the country one of the sparsest populated nations in the world. In the southern Gobi it is as scarce as 0.3 square kilometer.

Although this small population of Mongolia is scattered across the vast steppe, the urbanization rate is high. During the last two decades, migration from the rural areas has accelerated, with the proportion of the population living in urban areas rising to 54%. More than a quarter of the entire population lives in Ulaanbaatar .

The population is homogeneous, with Mongol-speaking people constituting 95% of the total. The only substantial non-Mongol group, representing over 5% of the population, is the Kazaks, a Turkish-speaking people dwelling in the far West. A Chinese minority lives in Ulaanbaatar . Mongolians can be subdivided into more than 20 different ethic groups, which are scattered across the country, These groups can be distinguished by their individual customs, histories and dialects.

The largest ethnic group is Halha, which accounts for over 75% of the total population mainly live in central, eastern and southern Mongolia .

The Oirats are a group of ethnic western Mongolians, which includes smaller groups, Durvud, Torgud, bayad, Uuld, Zakhchin, Myangad and Uriankhai. Since the early history of Mongolian Oirat people have resided around Siberia's Lake Baikal , the Sayan Mountain Ranges in Northern Mongolia and forested areas within the Altai Mountain Range. The name Oirat translates as forest people. After the fall of the Mongol empire in the 14 th century, Oirat became an independent state, known as Dzhungarian Kingdom . It covered western Mongolia and the eastern Chinese steppe and only became part of the Mongolian Republic during the Manchurian conquest in the 1600's.

Northern Mongolian ethnic groups include the darkhat, Tsaatan, and Khotgoid. They inhabit the dense forests of Huvsgul lake area, near the Russian border. The Buryat are the only group who originates from the vast eastern steppe.

 


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