Zud : a terrible 2010 winter for the mongolian nomads




















We are editing this special page - like we did during the killer winters of 2000 and 2001 - to report the situation of the mongolian nomads that face extreme climatic conditions in most of the regions, that make decimate the herds on which they depend to live.  

The risk is high that this 2010 winter creates a new wave of exodus towards the capital by the forced sedentarisation of the families which will have lost all their herds. 

We will mention also the actions intended to bring a direct help to the nomadic families, primarily food for the animals. 

On our side, we directly support the families which we know on our own funds, mainly those with which we collaborate for our turistic activities and programs

Thank you to let us know any project, initiative or information of which you would be informed.


Ulaanbaatar, the e-Mongol team

 Last update : march 19, 2010


 Harsh winter following a dry summer brings the famin of the herds and the ruin of the nomads


  Mongolian calls Zud - or Dzud - extreme winter

  conditions which prevent the pasture and cause the 

  death of the herds. Only one winter of Zud can kill

  several million heads of cattle. Zud successive of 2000

  to 2002 caused on the whole the death of more than 11

  million animals.

  This winter, Zud affects nearly 90% of Mongolia with

  very low temperatures and especially of the significant

  falls of snow which cover several tens of centimetres it

  quasi totality of the steppes and blocks or slows down

  strongly the communications.


To date Zud caused the death of more than 3 million animals and the government estimates that the total of the losses could reach 4 to 5 million in springtime. FAO (United Nations for the Food and Agriculture) deferred at the beginning of February that 14 of the 21 aimags (provinces) were seriously affected by the climatic conditions and which 21.000 nomadic families were exposed at the risk of food shortage. According to the Ministry for Agriculture, it is on the whole more than 120.000 families which are touched by Zud.


The touched families are confronted with a possible food insecurity, and a fall of their means of existence in front of the fast fall their incomes in cash and the big rise in the prices of fodder compared to last year. 

For lack of an assistance as soon as possible, diffuse poverty will involve a migration of mass towards the cities in the next months, as it had already occurred at the beginning of this century. The population of the capital almost doubled in 10 years because of the successive rural migrations, mainly after Zud of 2001. 

But also, and let us say especially, the nomads are desperate of their impotence to save their animals and of the threat of being forced to quit their most cherished liberty and way of life.

The animals die of hunger and exhaustion more than of the cold itself. The very dry summer 2009 in the majority of the areas did not make it possible for the animals to constitute sufficient reserves, not more than it did not make it possible to the herders to gahter sufficient stocks of fodder.

The thick layer of snow - from 20 to 120 cm - which fell as of November prohibited to the animals from brouter the remainders from the rare vegetation having grow last summer.


The temperatures, to be extremely rigorous, are not abnormally low for the average of the hard Mongolian winters. In fact the previous winters were rather abnormally "mild" for the country. 

One recorded this winter of the temperatures of - 40°C in many areas, and of - 50° C in the province of Uvs in the North-West of the country. These temperatures, if they are highligthed by the western media, are not unusual for the area which saw worse. In particular temperatures having fallen below - 60° C during 3 weeks in January 2007.


The coming spring is still announced very cold, and corresponds to the period of birth of the baby animals. Surviving animals being weakened, and the fooder stocks of the majority of herders being finshed, the new borns ones already threatened by an intense cold are likely to suffer from an insufficient breast feeding.


  Facing this situation, the government of Mongolia

  declared the state of natural disaster in a little more

  than half of the country, and called for international


  China already provided to neighbour Mongolia a help for and amount of ten million yuans (1,5 million dollars),   according to China news agency.

  Economic losses are estimated by FAO at 62 million dollars. 

  The government also voted an envelope of 2,6 million

  dollars for the most affected zones. 

  But according to the UN, 6 million additional dollars will   be necessary to still feed the remaining animals and to eliminate the carcasses of the dead animals.

For the moment, there are sales of fodder at dicount price for herders, transportation of food for the cattle, blankets and other emergency supplies that are organized by the Mongolian Authorities. These operations are complicated by the snow which blocks the tracks.

Other assistances received or announced to date:

- products of first need (clothing, drugs, food, fodder, generators, fuels…) received from Turkey, Russia and China for a value of 1,3 million dollars, were sent of Ulaanbaatar on March 11 by 115 trucks in 21 provinces of Mongolia.
- the World Bank will give a million dollars to buy new animals for the affected nomads
- Vision of World gave 500.000 dollars to help the nomads
- UNO will give funds of 300.000 dollars for the elimination of the carcasses


The domestic animals are not the only ones to suffer from Zud and wild fauna is also decimated, in particular by testimonys which we received, the wild Argali sheeps and wild Yangir goats in the Gobi.


François, for the e-Mongol team 



  Photos of Zud in Gobi desert - March 2010


These images were reported by some members of the e-Mongol team during a trip in the south Gobi from the 10 to March 15, 2010, within the framework of a project to support the camel breeders in Dundgobi province.

Click on the photoes to enlarge


  Mongolie-Mongolia-Gers in south of Tov aimag.jpg (83544 octets) Mongolie-Mongolia-Truck stuck in snow, 50 kms south of UB.jpg (54372 octets)

Yurts in the snow 

(Tov Province)

Family stucked in snow storm

(Tov Province)


This family progressed with difficulty with their horses and  fodder, the driver continuously having to dig to clear snow.


  Mongolie-Mongolia-Sheeps looking for grass.jpg (61476 octets) Mongolie-Mongolia-Camels stop in snow storm, Huld soum, Omnogobi aimag.jpg (36678 octets)

Sheeps looking for grass 

(Tov Province)


Camel herd stopped in snow storm 

(Dundgobi Province)


  Mongolie-Mongolia-Ger lost all goats, Huld soum, Omnogobi aimag.jpg (79228 octets) Mongolie-Mongolia-Animals dead in pasture, DundGobi aimag.jpg (40390 octets)

This family lost all of their 400 goats

(Dundgobi Province)


Carcasses of dead animals in steppe

(Dundgobi Province)



Mongolie-Mongolia-Ger in snow storm, Dundgobi aimag.jpg (20545 octets)

Mongolie-Mongolia-Dying baby camel, 100 kms south of UB.jpg (69635 octets)

Yurt in the snow storm 

(Dundgobi Province)


Dying young camel

(Tov Province)


This poor famished and lost animal remained exhausted lying down in snow during a one day snow storm, and its chances of survival are unfortunately very low.




Mongolie-Mongolia-Old camel dead from winter hardness, Huld soum, Omnogobi aimag.jpg (133977 octets) Mongolie-Mongolia-Wind poured snow full in winter shelter.jpg (49283 octets)

Dead old camel

(Dundgobi Province)


The camels are the animals which resist best the famine and the extreme cold of Zud, but some do not survive it, especially oldest like this one

Winter shelter filled by snow 

(Tov Province)


Each nomadic family has a winter camp of winter from the wind usually with enclosures and sheephouse made of wood  or stone to protect the animals from the bad weather and attacks of wolves. This shelter was completely filled by snow pushed by the wind and was made unusable.


  Mongolie-Mongolia-Baby camels before milking, camels milked for year around, Huld soum, Dundgobi aimag.JPG (2844249 octets) Mongolie-Mongolia-Sunset, Huld soum, Dundgobi aimag.jpg (50183 octets)

Babies camels attached during the draft
(Dundgobi Province)


Camels in the sunset

(Dundgobi Province)


Mongolie-Mongolia-Milking camel, half of milk to owner, half to baby.jpg (212943 octets)

Mongolie-Mongolia-Baby cheeps are feeded by camel milk.jpg (207232 octets)


Draft of the camels

(Dundgobi Province)


Half of the milk is for the young camel, half for the breeder


Baby sheeps feeded by camel milk

(Dundgobi Province)


The mothers died or are too weak to give milk and the babies sheeps and goats cannot survive Zud if they are not kept warm under the yurt



Mongolie-Mongolia-Camel breeder.jpg (165912 octets)

Mongolie-Mongolia-Camel pasture, unlimited steppe continue hundred miles.jpg (155443 octets)


Camel breeder

(Dundgobi Province)


Camels at pasture

(Dundgobi Province)

  Mongolie-Mongolia-New babies arrived, camel give birth to single baby ones per 2 year.jpg (166059 octets) Mongolie-Mongolia-Desert steppe riders on motocycle.jpg (172826 octets)

New babies camels

(Dundgobi Province)


Camel give birth to single baby ones per 2 year



Nomads motorbiking in the desert 

(Dundgobi Province)


The motor bike (Russian but more and more Chinese) is very widespread mean of transportation for the nomads. And very much used this winter because the surviving horses are too weak to be used for riding.



Mongolie-Mongolia-Water is taking from 10 kms away in this desert steppe.jpg (319305 octets)

Mongolie-Mongolia-Man seeing off us gestures come back again.jpg (202403 octets)


Packsaddlled camels 

(Dundgobi Province)


Water is taken from 10 kms away in this desert steppe

Nomadic family

(Dundgobi Province)


Man seeing off us gestures means come back again



Mongolie-Mongolia-crow and vultures are full stomack during Zud.jpg (104839 octets)

Mongolie-Mongolia-Our landcruiser.jpg (118152 octets)


Crows and vultures

(Tov Province)


They are some of the rare animals that benefit from Zud !

e-Mongol Land Cruiser in the snow storm

(Tov Province)



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