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REINDEER HERDER & TAIGA

TRAVEL TO REINDEER HERDER & TAIGA

Location: Taiga is 960 km northwest of Ulaanbaatar in the Tsagaannuur soum of Khuvsgul province.
Features: The Tsaatan, community of nomadic reindeer herders who engaged in reindeer husbandry, live in two distinct areas known as East and West Taigas. The Eastern Taiga, which is home to roughly eighteen households, lies northeast of Tsagaannuur soum center, across the Shishged River, crossable by ferry. The West Taiga, home to around twenty five households, lies due west of Tsagaannuur, beyond a steppe valley area called Kharmai. Highly distinct from the steppe grasslands found in much of Mongolia, the ecosystem that is home to the Tsaatan and their reindeer is classified as taiga. Taiga ecosystems are dominated by forested areas, in this case primarily composed of larch trees. Open valleys that resemble polar tundra are also typical in taiga ecosystems. The several thousand square kilometer habitats classified as taiga in the Tsagaannuur region forms the northernmost tip of Mongolia and provides home range for the world’s southernmost indigenous reindeer population. The specialized nutritional and geographical requirements of reindeer, prevent the species from living outside the taiga naturally, but extensive forage resources in the taiga allow them to thrive. Dozens of species of lichen, along with sedges, grasses, and willow, provide nutrition for reindeer. Berries, mushrooms, pine nuts and a variety of medicinal plants add to the floral biodiversity in the taiga. Fauna include endangered species such as musk deer, sable, and Argali sheep, which are protected under Mongolian law. Brown bears, wolves, elk, moose, and marmots also live in the taiga, along with Ptarmigans, Capercaillie (Wood Grouse), Raptors, woodpeckers and other birds.
Mineral springs, jagged peaks, and lush valleys are valued by community members for their beauty and resources, but also as features of sacred geography. This perception transforms the physical environment of the taiga into a spiritual landscape deserving of special considerations and practices. Some sacred areas are off limits to visitors, for example places inhabited by dangerous spirits, while other areas may have rules associated with them, such as activities that are required or prohibited Tsaatan guides and hosts help travelers navigate their sacred homeland, ensuring that visits to the taiga are both environmentally and culturally sensitive. Most camps and taiga locations are accessible only by horse & walk. Terrain in the taiga is rugged and varied, with steep & forested mountains, high-alpine passes, mud and wetlands (mostly in the west), and dense forests, open valleys and wetlands (in the east).

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