"These are the dogs that could stop Mongolian grasslands turning to desert," say the directors of Mongolian Bankhar Dog Project. The bankhar, a guard-dog, is being reintroduced to protect livestock from predators and remove herders’ incentive to keep more animals as insurance and kill predators, such as the rare Snow Leopard.
The non-profit organisation is reintroducing the ancient guard-dog to Mongolia’s steppe to prevent conflict between humans and wildlife and promote sustainable land use. Livestock numbers on Mongolia’s grasslands have nearly tripled since 2002, according to the National Statistics Office – and this is taking its toll on the pastures. The number of head of livestock in 2018 was over 66 million, about 41 per cent of which were goats, raised mainly to meet China’s demand for cashmere wool.
Historically the only dogs in Mongolia, bankhar have long been prized by nomadic families as effective protectors against predators, such as wolves. Their presence alone can reduce the number of animals lost to predators, and thereby lower the chances of herders killing these endangered predator species in retribution for their losses. However, bankhar numbers fell as a result of several factors, including culls when herders were relocated under socialist rule in Mongolia, which lasted from the 1920s until the 1990s, and the introduction of modern breeds via Russia.