Science/Tech

How Mongolian Reindeer Are Threatened By Loss Of Ice

As one of the most common and devastating effects of climate change, the vanishing and melting of our ice has caused great concern for experts and scientists, and has started endangering the wildlife inhabitants that depend on them for food and shelter.

One such example are Mongolian reindeer, who are directly affected by the rapidly melting patches of long-frozen snowpack and ice found in the Mongolian steppes. And it’s just not reindeer that are affected, since the families living in the surrounding areas are suffering too.

Losing Our Ice

In a remote and secluded part of northern Mongolia lies what is called as the Ulaan Taiga Special Protected Area, where about 30 families live.

According to interviews with members of the families, the Tsaatan usually bring their reindeer herds to a treeless, tundra valley region called Mengebulag during the summer. There lies the “munkh mus,” or “eternal ice,” which are large patches of snow and ice that have persisted in the area for the longest time.

Per the people, these ice patches are an important source of freshwater for both the families and reindeer. Furthermore, the animals usually use it to chill down and keep themselves free of insects. However, climate change has also affected these ice patches, and some of them are slowly vanishing. Unfortunately, these have dire consequences for the reindeers since it makes them more vulnerable to parasite-borne illnesses.

“These folks are immediately experiencing the consequences, because of the way their livelihood is tied to the animals, and tied to the water,” William Taylor, an archaeologist at University of Colorado Boulder and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, said.

Per Taylor, these ice patches have allowed people to thrive and flourish in the mountainous regions of Mongolia, which is one of the driest places on Earth. Unfortunately, many of the ice have started vanishing, with a number of long-standing patches melting away completely.

“The really troubling stories were the ones where the families took us to where patches used to be, and now they are just barren rock faces. The term munkh mus

— it’s a term of respect . They don’t use ‘eternal’ lightly in the Mongolian language. And the loss is, in many ways, felt as a tragic one,” Taylor added.

reindeer-2023720_960_720 Mongolian reindeer largely depend on the ice for survival, which they use to cool down. Photo by Pixabay (CC0)

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