Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mongolia | Gov-Altai Aimag | Gobi Bears | Mazaalai

According to Recent Findings there are now only twenty-two Gobi Bears—or Mazaalai as they are called in Mongolian—left in the world. This is down from a reported thirty-three a few years ago. This must make them one of the rarest species in the world. I have had my own run-ins with Mazaalai over the yearsThe first time I visited Shar Khuls Oasis on the border between Gov-Altai and Bayankhongor aimags we could not camp in the oasis itself because our camels refused to stay there—way too much fresh bear scat around. We had to camp a few hundred yards out in the desert. 

A couple years later I returned to Shar Khuls Oasis while on my way the Hideout of the Notorious Ja Lama. A few miles south of Shar Khuls we were actually Charged By A Gobi Bear. Thus my companions and I are probably some of the few people to see one of these bears close-up in a natural setting (most researchers see them from blinds). I was too busy getting my camel out of the way of the charging bear to take a photo, but I did get a photo of its tracks. 
 Mazaalai tracks (click on photos for enlargements)
Our party regrouping after bear incident. The camel guys, who were born and raised in the Gobi, said they had never before had an encounter like this with a bear. 
Uyanga, Camp Boss on the trip, which lasted fourteen days and covered 308 miles by camel, said of the bear encounter, “This is a story I am going to tell my grandchildren.”
Happy Campers after Bear Scare

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