National Red Listing and conservation outcomes in Mongolia


Mongolia is a vast, landlocked country encompassing an area the size of Western Europe. The country has a range of unique landscapes. Each of these is home to a unique assemblage of plants and animals, such as the Bactrian camel, long eared jerboa and Asiatic wild ass.

However, conservation in Mongolia is at a crossroads; over the past several decades Mongolia has undergone rapid social and economic change, and during this time period many of Mongolia’s species have undergone declines.

The Red List process

Coordinated through a joint effort between the National University of Mongolia (NUM), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Steppe Forward Programme, the Zoological Society of London, the Ministry of Environment and Green Development (formerly MNET), the Mongolian Academy of Science, the School of Education, the School of Agriculture, WWF, WCS and the Mongolian Ornithological Society (MOS) (and funded by the World Bank and Dutch government), three Mongolian Biodiversity Databank workshops were held between 2006 – 2012. These workshops brought together over 300 of the leading experts on Mongolia’s mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians, and birds, in order to develop a better understanding of the conservation status of these species and to identify the required conservation measures.

Data on names, distributions, legal status, habitats, ecology, breeding biology, dominant threats and conservation measures were compiled during these workshops and have been published as a series of National Red Lists, in both Mongolian and English (accessible through the NRL library). Species have been assessed using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. Summary Conservation Action Plans were also drawn up to highlight species of particular concern, outlining the conservation measures in place and those required. The aim of these Red Lists and Action Plans is to aid policy makers, conservationists, and government and planning authorities to prioritize conservation actions. National Red Lists and Action Plans were published in 2006 for fish, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, and in 2011 for birds and plants.


Gathering information, assessing all the species to international standards, and completing the Red List and Summary Action Plans can be a challenging process.

The Mongolian Red List of Birds and Summary Action Plans for Mongolian Birds were published in English in December 2011. A total of 476 species occurring in Mongolia were assessed by national and international experts during the Regional Red List Workshop in Mongolia in 2009. The compilation of the Mongolian Red List of Birds was made challenging by the large number of species, small number of experts and bird databases, uncertain and incomplete information and data as well as non-standardised data collection over the last decade.

Some taxonomic groups disproportionately threatened

During the compilation of the Red Lists, it was found that certain taxonomic groups were disproportionately threatened. For example, Figure 1 shows that in the creation of the Mongolian Red List of Mammals, it was found that 78% of Mongolian ungulate species (Artiodactyla and Perissodactyla) were categorised as threatened, while only 12% of carnivores and 12 % of rodents were found to be threatened. These threatened species were concentrated in two regions; in the north, corresponding to the area of highest species richness, and in the southwest around the Dzungarian Govi and Trans Altai Govi Deserts (Figure 2).

Category Percentage
Regionally Extinct (RE) 1%
Critically Endangered (CR) 2%
Endangered (EN) 11%
Vulnerable (VU) 3%
Near Threatened (NT) 6%
Least Concern (LC) 40%
Data Deficient (DD) 37%

Percentage of Mongolian mammals classed as 'threatened', by taxonomic group

The Red Listing process illustrated that a large number of species have recently undergone rapid declines. The process also highlighted the importance of addressing the dominant threats to Mongolian species – such as overexploitation (for trade) and habitat degradation due to overgrazing – and also helped to identify where future research is most needed.

Mongolian Biodiversity Databank

The data collected is now part of the Mongolian Biodiversity Databank housed at National University of Mongolia. The database, which has free public access, aims to bridge gaps between different institutions, by making all data available in one place. It will also serve as an important resource, particularly for those charged with conducting environmental impact assessments, or prioritize conservation policy.

Threatened mammal distribution in Mongolia

Figure 2. Distribution of threatened mammals in Mongolia. Darker red represents areas with a greater number of threatened mammal species.  


Interactive species search tool

An interactive geographical species search tool has been developed alongside the National Red Lists for Mongolia, which allows species distribution searches of the region using GIS information gathered during the National Red List workshops. This tool was developed using funds from the World Bank’s Netherlands-Mongolia Trust Fund for Environmental Reform.

This online spatial tool makes the distribution data available in an effective, visual, searchable format for use in conservation and landscape planning and management. The aim is to give users – especially those conducting environmental impact assessments – access to information on which vertebrate species are present at a given location, their conservation status and other associated information, and what management actions would be appropriate when working in that area.  Additionally the tool will allow planners to calculate how many species, both threatened and non-threatened, are within a given distance of a selected location. By making this interactive functionality available on the web, the project will maximise the utility of the Biodiversity Databank as a development and conservation tool.

Major step forward

Prior to creation of the various National Red Lists for Mongolia, the overall conservation status of Mongolian vertebrates was poorly understood, but it is now the first country in Asia to have produced regional Red Lists of all their vertebrate species. Following this work, the conservation status of all Mongolian vertebrates has been assessed and conservation measures needed for all threatened species have been delineated. More recently the first Mongolia Red List of Medicinal Plants has also been published.