The harvest of wildlife for pelts and meat has long been an important part of Mongolian’ subsistence. With the increased incorporation of the Mongolian economy into global wildlife trade, hunting has become more intensive and commercial. In terms of the numbers of animals killed, the wildlife harvest may have peaked in the mid-20th century under Mongolia’s socialist government. Since then, wildlife populations and annual harvests have generally declined.
Mongolia’s transition to democracy and a market economy in the early 1990s brought about profound changes in the wildlife harvest. The political and economic transition dismantled hunting management institutions while creating economic hardship that encouraged people to return to subsistence activities such as herding and hunting. The expansion of trade with China and the opening of four-season border trading points between Inner Mongolia and eastern Mongolia exposed the eastern steppe to the vigorous Chinese market for furs and game meat. This encouraged non-professional hunters to begin hunting eastern Mongolian wildlife for the commercial market.
Between November 2000 and March 2001 soum-level environmental inspectors and protected area rangers in the eastern steppe region reported 1,076 incidents of hunting. 41 percent of these cases involved the harvest of Siberian marmots (mean harvest = 15 marmots), and 33 percent of the cases involved Mongolian gazelle hunting (mean harvest = 21 gazelles). Rangers reported that gazelle hunters using trucks harvested a statistically higher average than did hunters using any other method: 31.6 gazelles per truck-aided incident, versus 9.3 for hunters overall. Soldiers harvested an average of 84.9 gazelles per incident, versus 9.8 by gazelle hunters overall. Local residents were responsible for the vast majority of fox or wolf hunting.
For Siberian marmots, the observed trade volume alone was almost three times the hunting quota approved for all three aimags, and four times the number of licenses sold.
Although Mongolian gazelle carcasses were not counted in large numbers at open markets, a survey of 350 Choibalsan residents in October 2001 showed that the average Choibalsan household (4.71 persons) consumed 25.4 kg of Mongolian gazelle meat annually, equal to approximately 2.5 gazelles per household. If all Choibalsan households consumed gazelles at this rate, the city’s annual consumption would equal roughly 16,000 gazelles.
About half of those Choibalsan residents who reported eating gazelle or marmot meat hunted it themselves. Overall, respondents preferred domestic meat to wild game in terms of quality and taste, but indicated that game meat was cheaper than domestic meat.
The relaxation of gun control laws and an increase in imports of firearms inspired a sharp increase in the number of herder-hunters owning hunting rifles in recent years. Of the gun-owning herder-hunters interviewed, 41 percent obtained their firearm after 1995. The percent of herder-hunter households among very poor households is low (42 percent hunt marmot and 14 percent hunt gazelle) when compared with wealthy households (78 percent hunt marmots and 64 percent hunt gazelle). Wealthy households, however, are a minority in the total population. Most hunters are in the middle and poor income classes.
About 34 percent of herder-hunters interviewed reported that they hunt illegally during closed seasons. Poverty appears to be the major driver of illegal hunting, particularly for households that subsist on marmot meat throughout spring, summer, and autumn.
Environmental inspectors reported that poor transport and inadequate funding for enforcement patrols are the major hindrances to their ability to enforce hunting regulations
This text adopted from report on hunting in the steppe regions of Dornod, Khentii and Sukhbaatar aimags prepared by Scharf & Enkhbold (2002).