Khomyn Tal becomes a National Park

2020.07.27

On May 7, 2020 the Parliament of Mongolia approved taking of nine sites under Special Protection of the Government of Mongolia. One of these sites is Khomyn Tal in Zavkhan province, a third place in Mongolia where Przewalski’s horses are successfully reintroduced to wilderness since 2004, a place of unique natural diversity, a buffer zone of Khar Us Lake National Park which includes several places of importance for migratory birds and places listed under RAMSAR Convention. Special Protected Areas Department of the Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism (MNET) played an especially important role in acknowledging the 15 years of fruitful reintroduction efforts and pushing through the administrative stages. IUCN acknowledged their contribution by an official letter to Mr Sansarbayar, the Head of the Department.

Khomyn Tal was taken under special protection based on the following justifications elaborated by WWF Mongolia, TAKH Association of France and Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Biology Institute.

  1. Natural island of desert-steppe surrounded by large lakes, sand dunes and rivers, migration corridor for numerous species of ungulates. This ecosystem is of immense value in terms of biodiversity – habitat to 31 out 69 species of wildlife listed in the IUCN Red List 1994, namely, Przewalski’s horse, snow leopard, ibex, black-tailed gazelle, saiga and wild boar. 
  2. According to Ministry of Nature and Environment of Mongolia and The Nature Conservancy Mongolia joint “Ecological regions evaluation” of nine sites candidates for special protection, conducted in 2017, Khomyn Tal was identified as a place of utmost ecological importance needing conservation.
  3. Being the 3rd reintroduction site for Przewalski’s horse where the initial 22 horses were brought in 2004 and 2005 by TAKH Association of France, and four more horses were brought from Prague Zoo, Czech Republic in 2011, Khomyn Tal has successfully safeguarded the Takhi with financial support of MAVA, Switzerland.
  • As recommended by IUCN, to restore a viable population of Przewalski’s horse in the nature requires raising no less than five independent populations in different geographical locations. By taking this area under special protection, the Government of Mongolia will be able to demonstrate its commitment to international conventions and raise its reputation internationally.
  • Baga Nuur Lake (southern part of Khomyn Tal) is listed as an internationally significant place for migratory birds – Important Bird Area (IBA number MN016, MN017), habitat to very rare Relict Gull, Dalmatian Pelican, white-tailed eagle. The neighboring Khar Us

Lake and Durgon Lake listed as RAMSAR site #976 in 1999 are also a reason for taking Khomyn Tal under protection.

  • The biodiversity and natural peculiarity of the area, especially, the reintroduced Przewalski’s horses constitute a solid base for developing a scientific research-based tourism, bring national and international investment, increase local residents livelihood through tourism-related services and trade and thus, raise some funds for long-term conservation work.

By taking Khomyn Tal under special protection, naturally growing sea-buckthorn bush expanses, the largest in Mongolia, can be harvested to benefit the local households. In addition, Khomyn Tal is an area urgently requiring protection from mining.

National Park which corresponds to IUCN category II, refers to wilderness areas with historical, cultural, or environmental educational value. National Park territory is subdivided into three zones based on the level of protection:

1) core zones – research and conservation activities are allowed without inflicting any damage to natural composition and structure, provide favorable conditions for reproduction and growth of animals and plants, undertake soil rehabilitation and mitigation of disaster-inflicted damage. 

2) ecotourism zone – tourism, fishing, and activities listed above are allowed;

3) limited use zone – above activities, plus traditional nomadic livestock breeding

and construction are allowed with park permission. Mining is explicitly prohibited. Buffer Zones are allowed either outside or overlapping with the Limited Use Zones.

Total area of Khomyn Tal National Park: 411,403.82ha bordering with Khar Us Lake National Park and Mongol Els National Park. There is lot of work ahead of KTT to align the work completed in the last 15 years, with the Government requirements to Special Protected Areas. For example, the number of rangers and their duties and responsibilities have to be reviewed and adjusted according to norms and quotes as per law. Zones needs to be specified. KTT, as a newly established National Park Administration will need to elaborate the National Park Management Plan and set up its Office in situ. Finally, the local herders need to be informed about the activities they can and cannot do in respective zones of the National Park and continuous efforts made to ensure their support and improve their cooperation in conserving the whole ecosystem.