Death of Sumbe Tomorsukh

With deep sadness, we've learned of the death of Lkhagvasumberel (Sumbe) Tomorsukh, Camp Manager and Research Assistant with our Mongolia partner organization, Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation. He was 27 years old.

Below is a tribute to Sumbe, written on behalf of all of us here at the Snow Leopard Trust by his friend and colleague, Dr. Koustubh Sharma.

Sumbee, our Mongolian grad student
Sumbe was part of the team that found the first ever wild snow leopard den site in Mongolia’s South Gobi region.
The Mountain Climbing Machine that went away too soon…

He climbed the mountains like an ibex. He ran on steep slopes where most of us would barely manage to crawl. He cared for snow leopards and ibexes as if they were his own. He helped his colleagues and communities selflessly. He was a young promising researcher who hailed from the water-rich Khuvsgul province, but had taken to the arid Gobi desert as his second home. He was our treasured Mountain Climbing Machine. We had never imagined we would need to use past tense while describing Lkhagvasumberel Tumursukh, fondly known as Sumbe.

Sadly and shockingly, we lost Sumbe last week. Sumbe’s death is currently being investigated.  His body was found in the Khuvsgul area last week and the funeral was held at his home earlier this week.

We met Sumbe for the first time in 2009, when he joined our camera trapping team as a student intern in the South Gobi to assist with the long-term ecological study on snow leopards (LTES). He was a young, honest and strong lad who didn’t speak much English, but had the passion to work in the mountains. He worked with a diverse team  of Mongolian and non-Mongolian researchers and volunteers.

Within days he understood what it took to look for appropriate sites and set up camera traps, and soon enough he learnt how to set up camera traps in the field on his own. Everyone was so impressed with him that he was almost immediately absorbed into the team at Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation (SLCF) led by Bayara Agvaantseren,  Mongolia Program Director. Sumbe was hired full time in 2012 and became the primary Research Associate for Snow Leopard Trust’s Long-term Ecological Study (LTES) in Mongolia, and also conducted research throughout Mongolia for Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation (SLCF), the partner organization to Snow Leopard Trust. Coming from a family with deep connections with nature, he was a natural with all the new tasks he undertook.

Sumbe became an indispensable member of our team. He was our key researcher in the field conducting prey surveys using double-observer methods, helping with camera traps set up, tracking down snow leopard collars whose satellite communication was broken or expired, managing the research centre, maintaining good relationship with the local communities, and assisting with collaring snow leopards

Sumbe loved to share his passion for nature with local kids
Sumbe loved to share his passion for nature with local kids

He began assisting with surveys and conservation programs in other parts of the country where Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation was operating. He also enrolled for his Master’s degree in the University, and as part of his dissertation conducted valuable surveys in the Tost Mountains in South Gobi using the method of double-observer counts. One of the finest papers on prey abundance using this methodology in the field came recently with Sumbe as the lead author. He also co-authored other scientific papers that focused on snow leopard population dynamics and snow leopard diets. He was developing into a fine scientist.

Sumbe had a never diminishing flame in him to learn and improve his skills. He spent several weeks in India, honing his statistical skills and knowledge about ecology while staying and studying with colleagues at Nature Conservation Foundation. This is when he also took a formal course in English.

In July 2014 Sumbe was awarded a grant from CREOi to travel to the United States to increase the capacity within Mongolia for snow leopard research and animal handling and care based on practices utilized by Sound Equine Veterinary Hospital Director, Dr. Cary Hills and Fish and Wildlife Department cougar experts as well as veterinarians at the Woodland Park Zoo.  Sumbe eagerly developed and built upon his own skills and understanding of animal care including the safe handling of large mammals, helping him increase his ability to assist in the long-term ecological study with his ungulate studies as well as to assist in the snow leopard collaring project.

Sumbe was to present his work at the upcoming Student Conference on Conservation Science in the coming spring. His paper for oral presentation was selected by the conference organizers. He had also earned a spot to spend a month in UK to intern with some of the finest zoos, honing his skills on handling wild animals.

Sumbe will be missed sorely. Thinking of him will continue to bring a smile to us forever, but will also pain our hearts, for he left us much too early. His never-ending energy, unfailing enthusiasm and unmatched compassion will inspire us always.

83 Comments

  1. So sad. Its a big loss to conservation society in general and SLT in particular. I also heared a lot abt him and his works in Mongolia. May the soul rest in peace.

  2. It is heartbreaking that such a wonderful man is gone from us so soon. God must have needed him to help with all the animals that have been wrongly killed. May he rest in peace and find joy in the hereafter with all his animal friends. my condolences to his family and friends.

  3. So so sorry that this man has died. From reading his obituary above, he will be surely missed by those who knew him. What a waste that he should die so young.

  4. Only the good die young…..wonder why that is. We NEED more young people like him. He will be badly missed….prayers for his family.

  5. I am saddened to hear of the passing of this wonderful young man. He gave so much of himself , and I’m sure he inspired others along the way.His legacy will live on in the valuable work he did, and those who will follow in his footsteps.
    Our broken woldl needs more people like him.

  6. I am saddened to hear of the passing of this wonderful young man. He gave so much of himself , and I’m sure he inspired others along the way.His legacy will live on in the valuable work he did, and those who will follow in his footsteps.
    Our broken world needs more people like him.

  7. A shining star that was rising in Mongolian conservation has dimmed and gone out. We loved having Sumbe working with our team on ibex research in Ikh Nart. We will miss him dearly.

  8. My heartfelt condolences to all who knew this amazing young man…it is obvious that the world will be a bit darker without him…rest in peace Sumbe…

  9. We thank you for taking care of this earth and all its guests for short a time. May your work and your life you shared live forever.

  10. Lamento mucho lo ocurrido. Es una pérdida irremplazable, sin embargo espero que sus familiares encuentren la calma y la paz para poder salir adelante y superar todo esto.

    Como una estrella él brillará en el firmamento para todos esos leopardos de las nieves!!!

  11. On behalf of the Animal Health Team at the Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, Washington, we send condolences to Sumbe’s family at this time. We are so sorry to hear of their loss.

  12. Our thoughts are with Sumbe’s family, friends and colleagues. He had already touched so many people with his work to conserve Mongolia’s snow leopards and his example will always be a shining light.

  13. I am so sorry to learn of Sumbe’s passing. He was clearly gifted, dedicated, and well-loved by all that knew him. His passing is a great loss to the snow leopard conservation community and Mongolia.

  14. A terrible loss doing invaluable work in the fight to educate more people about this simply wonderful creature absolutely tragic.I hope the cause of death is identified quickly thoughts to his family friends and colleagues John Driffield East Yorkshire England

  15. I am heartbroken to hear of this wonderful young man’s death. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, his friends, and colleagues. The world is a poorer place for our loss of him. Rest in peace, Sumbe.

  16. What a huge loss for conservation. May he sail in peace and his spirit protect the animals he worked so hard to conserve. My heart goes to his family and all who knew him.

  17. What a heartbreaking news and a big loss… I am regretting so much losing such a energetic young man with conservation soul of nature. This is really big loss for Mongolians…God may bless his family, friends and colleagues…

  18. My son-in-law, Dr. Cary Hills, brought Sumbe to our family home and it was like he had always belonged with us. We loved hearing about his family and life in Mongolia. I am deeply saddened about his death and my heart hurts. I want his family to know that they raised a wonderful young man and that he will always be in my heart and memory.

  19. This is tragic loss for our Mongolian snow leopard conservation foundation as well as SLT community in general. I am at loss of words for this inspirational, young biologist who was wrongfully and brutally killed for doing nothing but protecting the wildlife as a part of his job. As I heard, Sumbe was physically attacked 3 times (once last year and twice earlier in this year) by unknown people threatening him to “stop the activity he’s doing” as they hit him and stabbed him in his arm, abdomen areas several time in two of the attacks and he was abducted, threatened and abandoned in a rural area the other time. He reportedly left his home to park his car in Ulaanbaatar and went missing since then and was found in the bottom of lake Khuvsgul which is about 1000km away from the capital. This is clearly a very suspicious and mysterious murder that needs to be intensively investigated until we find out the truth. Who are the atrocious murderers that took away this young soul? What were their motive? Will this happen again to us? Please pray for Sumbe and help us to find out the truth.

  20. I was lucky to meet and spend some days with Sumbe in his home land around Lake Hovsgol in Mongolia last summer. He was a wonderful, passionate, dedicated, skilled, inspiring person who dedicated his young life to the preservation of the nature of his beautiful country. Inspired by his father he was already a great inspiration for young people within and outside Mongolia.
    I am in my heart with his father, his mother and all other people who were close to him. And I hope that the reasons for his early death will be found and that those responsible will be brought to justice.
    Rest in peace Sumber!

  21. I hope the people who have done this are not Mongols…if so they have lost their souls and their pride. Where are the people whose boots do not harm the mother earth, and who do not spill blood on her?

  22. Current rumors in Mongolia says that he has been murdered. Presumably, the people who killed him have been trying to stop him from doing his job for a while; he has been beaten up couple times but he did not give up. So they had no choice but to kill him in order to stop him from doing his job – to protect the wildlife in Mongolia.

  23. All of us at the Snow Leopard Conservancy send our deep condolences to Sumbe’s family, friends and associates at the Trust and the Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation.

    Alas, I never had the opportunity to meet Sumbe myself. But from all I know about the excellent snow leopard research initiatives conducted out of the South Gobi research station, each researcher’s job was undoubtedly made a lot easier — thanks to Sumbe’s careful management and attention to the continuing the legacy of Tserendeleg, Mongolia’s pioneer snow leopard conservationist. I get some solace to know that these two men are now at peace, both looking down on snow leopards and their mountain terrain.

    Rodney Jackson
    Snow Leopard Conservancy

  24. This is tragic loss for our Mongolian snow leopard conservation foundation as well as SLT community in general. I am at loss of words for this inspirational, young biologist who was wrongfully and brutally killed for doing nothing but protecting the wildlife as a part of his job. As I heard, Sumbe was physically attacked 3 times (once last year and twice earlier in this year) by unknown people threatening him to “stop the activity he’s doing” as they hit him and stabbed him in his arm, abdomen areas several time in two of the attacks and he was abducted, threatened and abandoned in a rural area the other time. He reportedly left his home to park his car in Ulaanbaatar and went missing since then and was found in the bottom of lake Khuvsgul which is about 1000km away from the capital. This is clearly a very suspicious and mysterious murder that needs to be intensively investigated until we find out the truth. Who are the atrocious murderers that took away this young soul? What were their motive? Will this happen again to us? Please pray for Sumbe and help us to find out the truth.

  25. Sumbe is an authentic hero……….if there was a Nobel Prize for Nature & Animal Conservancy……..it should be awarded to him………..

  26. I am totally shocked by this news. Sumbee was an extraordinary young man. He was devoted to his work, hugely competent and seemingly inexhaustible. It was a privilege to have crossed paths with him. He was truly inspirational. My condolences to his family and his colleagues in Mongolia and beyond I know you will all miss him greatly.

  27. I am terribly saddened by Sumbe’s death, quite apparently by murder, and the previous violence against him. What a fine young person he was. It seems that Mongolia and perhaps other regions of snow leopard, wildlife habitat are now joining other regions of the world subject to far too many attacks on defenders of habitat and wildlife for far too long. I hope justice and accountability are strongly pursued on behalf of the people, animals and plants of the region.

  28. Deepest regrets that this young man lost his life because he saw a great need and tried to help.
    Perhaps S.L.Trust could consider a fund named for him that would be specifically for training conservation agents. Donors could designate contributions directly into his fund. Just a thought.

  29. May the lord bless and protect his wonderful soul! No parent should have to bury a child and certainly not one as special as Sumbe. If he died as a result of foul play I hope those responsible are brought to justice and the extent of their crime given world wide publicity

  30. I got a glimpse of that wonderful young man’s life just by reading his friend’s tribute, he was truly an animal lover with a compassionate heart! The world needs more people like him! My prayers go to his family and friends.

  31. It is often that people who protect our wildlife from poachers are threatened and/or murdered. Greed is the main reason with no regard for animal or human life, just to make a profit. I hope the people responsible are caught and punished for their savage acts.

    My deepest sympathy to colleagues, friends and family, as this is an immeasurable loss.

  32. What a terrible tragedy — for Sumbe, for the people with whom he worked and the children he taught; and of course, for snow leopards. His life brought hope and progress; his untimely death brings us to the awareness that, incredibly enough, not all people share the goal of preserving the earth and her wild inhabitants. I am trying to concentrate on the hope Sumbe gave us. We must all do more, in Sumbe’s memory.

  33. I did not know Sumbe but I know some Snow Leopard Foundation members in Kyrgyzstan who must be destroyed by his lost; I know all rangers and police will make all efforts needed to investigate this lost and take criminals in front of Justice. This is not only a lost for the family and friends, but a huge lost for humanity, since devotion and passion for wildlife conservation should never be punished of death. Rest in peace Sumbe.

  34. We were sorry to hear of the death of this wonderful young man and are shocked and sickened to hear he was murdered. It is horrible.
    We hope that those responsible are brought to justice, soon. We send our condolences to his family and will continue to pray for all who work with these beautiful cats and the people who share the mountains with them.

  35. I am deeply saddened by the untimely passing of this beautiful young man with a heart that embraces the more-than-human world with so much love and tenderness. I hope his soul is wandering with his beloveds, whether his family or the snow leopards…his heart and soul will be at home with them, smiling with great joy.

  36. I am so very sorry to hear this news. What a wonderful, caring, committed young man. Horrified to learn he was murdered in the cause of protecting the snow leopards he loved. I do hope justice will prevail and his killers will be punished.

  37. The death of Sumbe Tomorsukh is such a loss. What a bright light in the lives of not only the Snow Leopards but those who worked with, and who knew Sumbe. Thoughts and prayers to his family, co-workers, and the lovely Snow Leopards that he loved and for which he cared. The spirit of Sumbe will live on in those he loved, protected, and taught.

  38. Certainly we as lovers and supporters of snow leopards and the fight to save this great animal, cannot fathom the evil and hate that permeates the hearts of mankind towards those who do much good in this world. To Sumbe’s loved ones, friends, co-workers and the Snow Leopard Trust, my heartfelt sympathy. My deepest thanks to Sumbe and all those who make a difference for “The Ghost of The Mountains”. God Bless to All.

  39. You sure were a bright light while you lived amid us and may your light keep shining from the other world to help enlighten mankind to the plight of the animal Kingdom. God rest your soul.

  40. This is really sad news. My heart goes out to Sumbe’s family, friends and co-workers. Sumbe’s passing is a tragic loss on so many levels.

  41. How tragic and so terribly sad for this compassionate young biologist to have lost his life doing what he was passionate about. Our world has lost an incredible and dedicated young life far too soon. For those who have carried out such a despicable act of murder, if this is what happened, there must be justice for the taking of this beautiful young man’s life. Sumbe Tomorsukh will be remembered for his dedication, kindness, compassion and love for the magnificent Snow Leopards. My heartfelt condolences to Sumbe’s family, friends and colleagues at the Snow Leopard Trust. I know in my heart that Sumbe will be caring for his beloved Snow Leopards in another world. Sumbe will be remembered with great affection by all who knew him. Such a sad loss to the Snow Leopards Trust and our beautiful wildlife.

  42. From Hong Kong, the Eco-Sys Action Foundation team and Boopy sends their deepest sympathy to Sumbe’s family. We unfortunately never get the privilege to know him but he was a great conservation man and will remain forever a fantastic inspiration to the young generation in Mongolia and beyond. Баяртай (Bayartai) Sumbe, Сайн яваарай! (Sain yavaarai!).

  43. He sounds like such an extraordinary young man. The world has lost a mighty caretaker and his loss will be felt for a long time. Rest In Peace Sumba. You will be missed by your fellow caretakers and the leopards themselves.

  44. I give thanks for Sumbe and all the brave, difficult, essential, work he has done for snow leopards, for wild creatures everywhere, and for the Mongolian people and their heritage of respect for the earth. I pray that his murderers be found and brought to justice. May his life, and his ultimate sacrifice, enshrine his legacy, and inspire all of us to redouble our efforts to stop at nothing to protect the endangered creatures of our planet.

  45. I am deeply saddened by this news. My thoughts are with Sumbe’s family. They had a good son. If there can be any comfort for them at all, it must be that he lived and died doing what he loved to do, valuable work that he did so well.

  46. Such sad and earth shattering news. What a horrible and tragic loss not only for the human race but even a larger loss for the animal world. Rest in peace Sumbe and may peace and comfort be upon your family as they deal with your death.

  47. I feel very saddened by the news of Sumbe. Please pass on my sincere sympathy to Sumbe’s family. He will be missed. Thank you Sumbe xxxxx

  48. As a lover of cats of all sizes and a recent donor to the SLT, I am so sad to hear that someone so young and so passionate about protecting the big cats of Mongolia was lost so soon and in such a horrific way. I too hope that whomever is responsible is brought to justice and in some small way this may allow his family some solace and closure. I also hope his death is not in vain and it brings attention to the need for more government funding and education to both protect these wonderful cats and show the people of Mongolia that they and the cats can co-exist in peace.

  49. I met Sumbe Tumursukh in June 2015 in Mongolia, and he showed me and another photographer around Ardavhar Camp. An always smiling, extremely helpful, dedicated young researcher comes always up in mind. It is a great honour I could spebd two days with him, and it is not easy to believe I can not see his smile again. With my sadnes for his loss, I would like to share the grief of his family. Rest in peace Sumbe!

  50. Shocked and deeply saddened by this tragic news. My condolences to his family. He will be missed by the conservation community and all those close to him.May his soul rest in peace. At least he died pursuing a dream. Let’s hope that the police will get to the bottom of this soon. I can’t help but wonder whether poachers had anything to do with this.

  51. This is such very sad news. I never met or knew Sumbe but from reading these accounts I realize that he was a special young man who embodied wonderful attributes of great importance to the cause of Snow Leopard conservation. To think that Sumbe may have been murdered for doing such vitally important work is beyound the range of logical comprehension. Please convey my most sincere condolences to Sumbe’s family, friends and colleagues for their great loss. I would also wish to know if anything is being done to provide material assistance to his immediate family for their loss of a provider. Anyone with information in the regard can contact me directly at the ISAELE address. Isftaele@gmail.com Thank you and may his name and work be remembered always. God bless him.

  52. Such a heartbreaking message! Sumba lived with courage and love for family. If his death wasn’t of natural causes (I doubt) may his enemy be dealt with to the worst. Will miss reading updates about you Sumba Tomorsukh. May you rest in peace knowing your family will be watched over and taken care of.

  53. Sorry about that 3 separate comment. This video uploaded in Mongolian. English subtitle will add soon. And i though maybe i have to share this to others.

  54. He was stranger for me, but as a fellow Mongolian I know we lost someone who was significantly important to us. And it is so frustrating to know that he had been working under that horrible pressure and threats from same Mongolian filthy people for so many years. I hope police will soon find who is behind of his death.
    May your soul rest in peace brother.

  55. We found his record before his dead.!!!! He recorded his hand phone and hided in his own car.
    He said: You can treat me as you want. But you can’t treat my family as you threaten.I came here to protect my family.Today, this society can be some people’s society just as you.May you guys bought everything today.But remember, everything will be changed in the future.You guys must be ashamed of what you’ve done.
    Somebody said:Can’t you shut your mouth?
    Sumbee said:There is no reason to shut my mouth.I’ll tell whatever i want.Do you think i’ll beg life from you. No i don’t begging life.
    few moments later the cars doors opened
    Sumbee said: Oh ouch Today some people kidnapped me
    They threaten me that bad things will happen to my loungers.
    There is no way, that’ why i came here now. They are surely the people who attacked me before. I don’t know what is the reason.
    I can’t understand. If fucking polices did their work well this wasnt happened to me.They are seem to be decided. Surely they will kill me….. and he go out from the His car.

  56. This murder is directly linked to MINING LICENSING in the region where he worked. It’s obvious that those license holding companies have conflict with him to operate. We want justice! Polices are not doing their job but trying to hide the truth. Regional polices are sold. Hope the killers will be found soon. Rest in peace young precious hero of Mongolia

  57. I’m so sorry for him, for his dazling future, and for those animals that need people like him, for people who collaborated with him, and for mongolia that has lossed one of its brillant young men, and so so. It was a big loss for all and for everything. I just want that the killer be arrested very soon and pay for his sin.

  58. May Your Soul Rest In Peace Sumbe!
    He was killed by filthy, corrupted, immoral state officials. He had no reason to commit suicide. He was going to Cambridge this year, and he was passionate about his job. The corrupted police officials are trying to rule that he had mental disorder, and took his own life, and close the case. We should bring this case to international attention, and seek assistance from international organizations, otherwise in Mongolia bullshit police authorities will just close the case to save their stinky asses. Please help find out the party responsible for this young man’s death.

  59. There have been many controversies around the situation at the moment. Some are trying to politicize it some are trying to use it to make it into politics… nevertheless, it is for certain that it has been long, carefully planned lots of resources and political interests involved EXECUTION!!!! do not doubt that for a second…
    Anyway, DA has initiated task force after the evidences.
    All the necessary attentions the situation needs are successfully attracted now, if not too much..
    The family and friends are at risk now, they must be highly alert. anything could happen.
    If there is an organization specialized to deal with this very situation, please outreach for the remaining family members.
    Please god be with their family….

  60. I wish he was living in the country where justice was served, where politicians did not use his death for an election campaign, where the cops were skilled and intelligent, and most importantly, young smart man like him could achieve his dream by nurturing and loving the mother earth.

  61. when i have listen this post recently i feel very sadness and i would like to pay a tribute in core of my heart,i am also wildlife student,i am also working different wildlife ecology,including many ungulates species,but i need moral suggestions about conservation work of big cat,i also want to work volunteer on different surveys of wildlife,but i respect, May Your Soul Rest In Peace Sumbe!

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