How Overland's Mongolian Bankhar Dog Project Is Saving Wildlife

Posted by Mateja Lane
Mongolian dog

Getting to the remote villages on the Mongolian Steppes is not easy. 

Bruce Elfstrom found this out as he led an Overland 4x4 expedition through the Steppes. Elfstrom is the founder of Overland Experts, an expedition training service. He's also a scientist and brought it upon himself to solve an ecological issue he witnessed firsthand while in Mongolia. 

In 2003 he was leading a tour through the Mongolian Steppes and they camped for the night in a beautiful valley. Village inhabitants nearby came to welcome the foreigners and also bedded down for the night. That night, a pack of wolves took advantage of an empty village and killed 17 colt horses. The Mongolians relied on those horses for a great many things and decided to take revenge.

Mongolian herders

With the off-roading tour helpless to interfere, the village set out to kill the entire wolf pack, destroy the dens, and basically hunt down any other predators in the area. The Mongolian wolves are already endangered and Elfstrom knew he had to do something to help protect other endangered predators like wolves and snow leopards in the area from retribution killings while also helping the Mongolians preserve their own livelihood.

What the Mongolian villages and their livestock herds needed was protection.

dog

The Mongolian Bankhar Dog is a breed that has long been used for livestock protection. They also saw near extinction from Mongolia in the Soviet area, so Elfstrom's project really became two-fold: stop the killing of endangered Mongolian predators by protecting livestock while revitalizing the Mongolian Bankhar dog breed.

The Mongolian Bankhar Dog Project (MBDP) was born.

The MBDP team first found pure-bred Bankhar dogs around Mongolia and started a breeding program. The puppies are distributed to nomadic herding families where bonds are created and strengthened over time. Soon, the livestock guardian dogs have the important jobs of scaring away predators, making them rely on other food sources.

puppies

The program has seen an 85% success rate and has already made a big impact in Mongolia; the amount of lost livestock is down, as is the loss of endangered species in the area. The Mongolian dog breed has also seen a resurgence. But in order for the project to continue they need vehicles to get to the remote villages and that's where Overland comes in.

They supply 4x4 vehicles, fuel, maintenance, and operational costs. They also help with the dogs' medical bills, puppy care, and food costs.

But Overland also relies on crowdfunding in order to keep the Mongolian Bankhar Project alive. They have a current crowdfunding campaign running until March 18 with a $75k goal. If you would like to donate, you can do so here.

In the meantime, watch Bruce Elfstrom tell his own story in a TEDx talk.

What do you think of the Bankhar livestock protection project? Tell us in the comments below. 

Images via Expedition Portal

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How Overland's Mongolian Bankhar Dog Project Is Saving Wildlife