Reindeer Nutrition and Pasture Analysis in the Mongolian Taiga

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The research for this thesis has taken place over the last two years (2005-2006) in the northern-most pinnacle of Mongolia only miles from the Russian border. It is aimed at assessing nutritional availability, range quality and utilization by domesticated reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) in a small sliver of taiga ecosystem inhabited by a nomad reindeer-herding people called the Tsaatan. Indigenous reindeer herding practices and cultural strategies link the survivability of the people with the survivability of their reindeer. The period of Soviet occupation in Mongolia from 1921 to 1991 caused massive damage to the social fabric of Tsaatan culture and also herd health. Since 1991, the Tsaatan have been attempting to revive their culture in post-soviet, Mongolian democracy. Through dairy, packing, riding, meat and other by-products, reindeer provide the raw materials and power the Tsaatan need to survive in this cold mountainous region of Mongolia. Though a multitude of health problems effect the herd today including inbreeding and zoonotic diseases such as Brucellosis, I believe the herd?s recovery is predicated on first establishing better herd nutrition. Herd demographic data collected by myself and other researchers in 2006 showed a correlation between herd body condition and management strategies/forage quality [Appendix 1]. With the underlying assumption that heard health is influenced by nutrition, this study set out to collect the first set of data on forage availability/quality in Tsaatan pastures. My hypothesis was that both availability and diet composition vary from other reindeer groups and warrant a dynamic set of considerations in terms of best-management policies for the herd.
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