When Narangarav Bayasgalan – who goes by Garav, for short – started her job as a Research Specialist for Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park in Mongolia, the Park had the reputation of being the least effective of all the National Parks in Mongolia and was equipped with only 2 GPS units and 1 set of binoculars to be shared by all the rangers. Ironically, not even these 2 GPS units were used by the park rangers; they simply did not know how the devices could help their work.
A fast learner and hard worker, this resolute young ecologist had quickly risen through the conservation ranks after her graduation from the Ecology and Conservation Department of Mongolia’s Agriculture University in 2007, She’d served as park ranger first, but had soon been promoted to be a policy and mining specialist in the local government. But after a few years, she’d wanted to get back into the field more – and successfully applied to become a Research Specialist at Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park.
In her new role, Garav not only was responsible for designing and implementing all research and monitoring on biodiversity in the park – she also became the team leader and manager of 7 (male) wildlife rangers. With her team-first attitude and her leadership by example, she quickly gained the respect of her colleagues – including her rangers and her supervisors.
Once Garav realized how the park’s research efforts were hindered by a lack of training and equipment, she convinced park management to work with the Snow Leopard Trust’s Mongolia Program to learn more about snow leopard research methods.
Garav and her team were so excited about their first training that they asked for more – and soon after, they were not only using their two GPS units on a daily basis, but also started borrowing additional units from the Snow Leopard Trust.
Building upon the initial training, the Snow Leopard Trust also provided Garav the opportunity to join a new camera trapping research effort on nearby Nemegt Mountain in 2013. She learned how to set up the cameras and track their location and results using GPS. She showed such a penchant for the work that only one field season later, in 2014, Garav led her own team of rangers to set up 37 camera traps on Nemegt Mountain, ultimately capturing 133 snow leopard encounters.
Today, thanks to Garav’s strong leadership, Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park ranks as one of the most effective Mongolian National Parks and is equipped with 22 GPS units and 23 binoculars that the rangers regularly use. This success has enabled the Snow Leopard Trust’s Mongolia Program to greatly increase the area that it can monitor for snow leopards, and greatly strengthened their relationship with both the National Park and the Ministry of Environment, Green Development and Tourism as a whole.
Key Allies for Monitoring and Research
Wildlife rangers like Garav, protected area staff, and community volunteers play a key role in our efforts to better understand and monitor snow leopards and their prey. They set up and recover camera traps that allow us to keep track of changes in the snow leopard population. They conduct prey surveys, where they count ibex and blue sheep to make sure there’s enough wild prey for the snow leopards. Thanks to these dedicated individuals, we are now monitoring more than 3 times as much snow leopard habitat as we were just 5 years ago.