Over 2 million animals perish in Mongolia’s harshest winter since 1975

Over 2 million animals perish in Mongolia's harshest winter since 1975

This winter, Mongolia endures its snowiest season since 1975, leading to the deaths of 2.1 million head of livestock from starvation and exhaustion, a stark rise from figures reported just days ago. The extreme weather event, known as dzud, has intensified due to a preceding summer drought, severely impacting the country’s herding communities.

Mongolia is currently experiencing one of its coldest and snowiest winters since 1975, with more than 2 million animals having perished so far. This figure, as confirmed by Gantulga Batsaikhan of the country’s agriculture ministry on February 26, 2024, represents a sharp rise from the 670 000 fatalities reported less than 10 days earlier. According to official statistics, Mongolia had 64.7 million such animals, including sheep, goats, horses and cows, at the end of 2023.

The country, accustomed to severe weather from December to March with temperatures dropping as low as -50 °C (-58 °F), is facing a winter more brutal than usual.

The United Nations has highlighted the gravity of this year’s dzud, a phenomenon resulting in massive livestock losses, with 70% of Mongolia currently experiencing “dzud” or “near dzud” conditions. This is a significant increase from 17% the previous year.

The situation has been further aggravated by a summer drought, leaving animals without sufficient fat reserves to withstand the winter.

Mongolia’s nomadic herders, who make up about a third of the country’s 3.3 million population, are particularly vulnerable. The extreme weather has not only resulted in a scarcity of grazing grass due to snow-covered pastures turning to ice, but it has also isolated herders, making it challenging to procure feed and hay from nearby towns.

Mongolia has experienced six dzuds in the past decade, including the winter of 2022 to 2023 when 4.4 million head of livestock perished. Reflecting on the historic impact, the deadliest dzud recorded was in the winter of 2010 to 2011, when over 10 million animals died.

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References:

1 2 million animals dead as extreme winter weather hits Mongolia – AFP/rl – February 26, 2024

2 Largest winter snowfall since 1975 and severe cold leave nearly 668 000 livestock dead in Mongolia – The Watchers – February 22, 2024

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