Mongolia is an independent republic in East Asia. The country is bounded on the south, east and west by China and to the north by Russia. The capital city is Ulaanbaatar, and other major cities include Darhan and Erdenet. The country is mountainous with an average altitude of 1580 meters above sea level, which makes Mongolia one of the highest countries in the world. The lowest point is Hoh Nuur depression at 560 meters above sea level and the highest point is the Khuiten peak at 4374 m.
The Mongolia gained fame in the 13th century when under Chinggis KHAAN they established a huge Eurasian empire through conquest. For 3 000 years, the people of the steppes have adopted a pastoral way of life moving in the search of best pastures and campsites. They live by and for their livestock, in the forefront of which the horse undoubtedly was the first animal domesticated in these infinite meadows.
Today, approximately half of Mongolia’s population is still roaming the vast plains living in the ger and moving their campings several times a year on the grounds with no fence. Nomadic life thrives in summer and survives in winter. Considering climatic conditions, especially during winter, such lifestyle may seem to the outside world to be a very hard way of living. However, Mongolians have developed for centuries such qualities as strength and resilience that are essential for survival in this harsh nature, which is their cherished homeland. Mongolia was a communist state being sandwiched between China and Russia and when the Soviet Union broke up in the 1990’s removing economic assistance, the country went into a crippling recession.
Economic activity traditionally has been based on agriculture and breeding of livestock. The country however also has extensive mineral deposits including copper, coal, molybdenum, tin, tungsten, and gold account for a large part of ndustrial production. Iron ore deposits are found in the region near the town of Darhan and coal is also produced in this region. The international time zone in Mongolia is GMT + 8 hours and GMT + 7 hours in the western provinces of Bayan-Ölgii, Uvs and Khovd.
The name “Gobi” is a Mongol term for a desert steppe, which usually refers to a category of arid rangeland with insufficient vegetation to support marmots but with enough to support camels. Mongols distinguish Gobi from desert proper, although the distinction is not always apparent to outsiders unfamiliar with the Mongolian landscape.Bactrian camels by sand dunes in Gobi Desert.
Gobi rangelands are fragile and are easily destroyed by overgrazing, which results in expansion of the true desert, a stony waste where not even Bactrian camels can survive. The arid conditions in the Gobi are attributed to the rain shadow effect caused by the Himalayas. Before the Himalayas were formed by the collision of the Indo-Australian plate with the Eurasian plate 10 million years ago Mongolia was a flourishing habitat for major fauna but still somewhat arid and cold due to distance from sources of evaporation. Sea turtle and mollusk fossils have been found in the Gobi apart from the more well-known dinosaur fossils.
Tadpole shrimps (Lepidurus ongolicus) are still found in the Gobi today. The eastern part of Mongolia including the Onon , Kherlen rivers and Lake Buir form part of the Amur river basin draining to the Pacific Ocean. It hosts some unique species like the Eastern brook lamprey, Daurian crayfish (cambaroides dauricus) and Daurian pearl oyster (dahurinaia dahurica) in the Onon/Kherlen rivers as well as Siberian prawn (exopalaemon modestus) in Lake Buir.