Holarctic Marmots as a factor of Biodiversity.
Rumiantsev V.Yu;, Nikol'skii A.A. & Brandler O.V. eds.,
Abstracts of the
3d Conference on Marmots (Cheboksary, Russia, 25-30 August 1997), Moscow ABF 1997, 216p.


Ya. Adya

Biological Institute, Academy of Science of Mongolia

Mongolia is the leading country in the world in the steppe marmots, its distribution and hunting. Two kinds of marmots inhabit the mountain steppe: Mongolian Marmot (Marmota sibirica) and Altai (M. baibacina) which occur third part of the whole territory of Mongolia.
Altai Marmot inhabits 800.0 thousands hectares of land in the west from Khovd town, center of Gobi-Altai aimag. Mongolian Marmot occur in the steppe with Central Asian continental climate and particular ecological conditions. It is distributed between 44-52o N and 90-120o E, especially they occur between 45-50o N.
Since the ancient times Mongolian people have traditionally used marmot meat, fat and skin. The national practices of hunting, preserving and preparing food of marmot meat and fat, along with leather tanning are related to the nomadic style of living, and were established at that time. Stories about hunting of marmots were mentioned in the historical manuscript ? The Secret History of Mongolia (1260) and travel inscriptions of the first travellers from West Europe in Mongolia: J. D. P. Carpini (1245-1247) and Marco Polo (1298).
Until the end of the 19th century mainly poor people used to hunt marmots for food and household purposes. The fur experts from Leipzig developed a new technology in 1890 which through coloring made marmot fur equal to the furs of mink, sable and otter. The market price of marmot fur increased, and marmot hunting became more popular.
According to the records on foreign trade of marmot fur from Mongolia, 30 thousand marmot furs were exported from West Mongolia in 1865, 1.4 million in 1892, a million in 1905, 13 millions between 1906-1910, a million in 1913 through Russia to Leipzig, 16 millions between 1922-1931. These figures show only the amount of exported fur, but not the full picture of the whole marmot hunting. Since 1930, the number of hunted marmots has been regulated by the Government and shown in the state planning. This made it easy to have a registration of total hunted marmot numbers, but still the number of marmot fur that is used for household purposes, is not clear. There is a record stating that almost 4 million marmot furs were exported from Mongolia in 1910, and particularly, after WW2 (1946-1955) 2.3 million each year. During last sixty years (1932-1990) seventy million marmot furs or about a million each year were prepared for national use and export.
In comparing the marmot distribution in 1970 to the distribution in 1940, the distribution has decreased two-fold (Erendagva, 1972), during 1945-1970 the territory of the cultivated land has increased seven-fold (Dash, 1970). According to the research data on marmots in Mongolia, there are 16-17 million (Dulamtseren, 1989), 15 million adult and 1.5 million young marmots (Sukhbat, 1990) and 13 million marmots excluding young marmots (Bibikov, 1989) in Mongolia. Because of the economic difficulties during the last years, there has been no assessment of marmots. That is why there is a shortage of recent data on marmot population and its distribution.
In the transition to the market economy in 1990, fur price increased 8-10 times, as well as hunting. Because the number of the marmots in Mongolia has decreased, the Government is planning to reduce the number of the marmot fur that goes to export by 350 000. The marmot hunting is still popular in Mongolia, and the amount of hunted marmots has not been reduced.
The basic reasons for the reduction in marmot population in Mongolia and distribution are increase in cultivated land, population growth, urbanization and local hunting. Other reasons are hunting in order to prevent the spread of the bubonic plague, weak monitoring of arms use and lack of real estimations on marmot population regenaration times and capabilities. If the situation is ignored, after 10-15 years there will be no marmots.
Therefore, it is really neccesary to develop and implement a national program on conservation and sustainable use of marmots, study and research marmots, organize international expeditions on marmot study and collect data on hunting and biogeocenoz.

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