Conservation presence, not socioeconomics, leads to differences in
pastoralist perceived threats to argali
Wesley M. Sarmento
, Richard P. Reading
Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, USA
Department of Biology and Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver, CO 80208, USA
Received 15 May 2016
Received in revised form
24 June 2016
Accepted 1 July 2016
Available online 20 July 2016
Community-based conservation approaches that keep people on landscapes increasingly complement
preservationist models of reserves without people. Evaluations of community conservation have shown
that economic incentives and socioeconomics primarily drive people’s attitudes and perceptions. Work at
Mongolia’s Ikh Nart Nature Reserve demonstrates how to achieve successful conservation by integrating
local people into the overall program. Using a short questionnaire, we interviewed pastoralist families
across two soums (similar to a U.S. county) in Ikh Nart. We examined (1) pastoralists’perceived threats to
argali sheep (Ovis ammon), (2) socioeconomic differences among pastoralists, and (3) differences be-
tween pastoralists from different soums. We found that 15 years of conservation activitiesdeducation,
research, and modest ecotourismdthat occurred in the northern soum led to inﬂuences on people’s
perceptions toward argali conservation. Compared with pastoralists from southern Ikh Nart, pastoralists
from the northern part of the reserve more likely knew that argali are protected and understood primary
threats to the species. Socioeconomic factors, such as age, sex, and wealth, did not signiﬁcantly inﬂuence
responses. The negligible economic incentives in Ikh Nart did not lead to response differences. Our re-
sults demonstrate that conservation can inﬂuence people across socioeconomic classes without
providing large economic incentives.
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Creating strategic protected areas arguably offers the best
approach to helping ameliorate negative anthropogenic impacts on
nature; however, protected areas often lead to conﬂict between
locals and preservationists (Lam and Paul 2014; Roe 2008). For
example, national park formation in Africa has displaced local
communities, leading to retribution killing of wildlife (Western
1997). Community-based conservation provides an alternative or
complimentary approach to the old “fence and ﬁnes”preserva-
tionist model because it keeps people in nature reserves with
traditional livelihoods largely intact (Baral and Stern 2011; Berkes
2004; Leisher et al 2012). However, community-based conserva-
tion projects have come under attack by some conservationists
because the economic ambitions of local people often leads to
unsustainable resource use (Spiteri and Nepal 2006; Wang et al
2006). In addition, some community-based approaches have not
understood the interests of rural people (Kühl et al 2009; Mehta
and Kellert 1998). Nevertheless, community support is a vital fac-
tor to the success of wildlife conservation in protected areas (Ervin
2003; Struhsaker et al 2005). Understanding the perspectives and
knowledge of local people allows protected areas to develop pro-
grams that better address local concerns and provide viable stra-
tegies for conservation.
Worldwide, temperate grasslands are the most underrepre-
sented biome in protected area networks, with only 4.6% protected
(Hoekstra et al 2005). With more than 83% of Mongolia classiﬁed as
steppe and with >17% of the land under some type of protected
status, the country is a leader in rangeland conservation (Angerer
et al 2008; Oyuungerel and Munkhdulam 2011; Reading et al
2015). In addition, 40% of Mongolia’s employment and 20.6% of
its gross national product depend on pastoral livelihoods (Bruegger
et al 2014). Forty-year grazing enclosures, however, show that
rangeland productivity across Mongolia has fallen by 20e30%
(Angerer et al 2008). Mongolian pastoralists have already observed
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E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (W.M. Sarmento).
Peer review under responsibility of National Science Museum of Korea (NSMK) and
Korea National Arboretum (KNA).
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Journal of Asia-Paciﬁc Biodiversity 9 (2016) 263e270
environmental changes because of climate change (Addison et al
2012; Bruegger et al 2014). Loss of grassland production likely re-
sults from both climate change and massive increases in stocking
rates (Bedunah and Schmidt 2004; Davie et al 2014; Reading et al
2010). Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and Mongolia’s tran-
sition from a tightly regulated, command economy to a free market
system, livestock numbers in the country haves risen greatly. Pri-
vatization and lack of regulation caused stock numbers to shoot
from 26 million animals in 1992 to >45 million in 2013 (Reading
et al 2015, 2010). Furthermore, Western demand for cashmere
causes disproportionate stocking of cashmere goats, likely a
contributing factor in declines of rangeland condition and certain
wildlife populations, including argali (Ovis ammon;Berger et al
2013; Mallon et al 1997; Reading et al 2001). Argali, the world’s
largest wild sheep, are listed internationally as near threatened,
and one subspecies was reported extinct in 2009 (Harris et al 2009).
Poaching and competition with livestock likely represent the pri-
mary drivers of these declines (Harris and Reading 2008).
The United Nations Development Programme’s Special Protected
Areas Network project adopted Ikh Nart Nature Reserve (Ikh Nart) in
southeastern Mongolia as a model protected area in 2010. Ikh Nart
has integrated the local herding community into successful con-
servation of grasslands and argali. We investigated the ecological
knowledge of pastoralists living in Ikh Nart and examined if and
how conservation activities inﬂuenced local people’s perceptions
and knowledge of grassland resources and conservation issues. Ikh
Nart Nature Reserve was created in 1996 to conserve argali.
Although poaching in the area has largely ended because of 15 years
of conservation and law enforcement, overgrazing of domestic stock
remains a concern. A local nongovernment organization, the Argali
Wildlife Research Center, manages Ikh Nart using a community-
based approach. Local pastoralists continue traditional livelihoods
within Ikh Nart, based primarily on sheep and goat production for
meat and hair ﬁber, including cashmere wool. With roughly 1500e
2000 argali (Reading unpublished data; Wingard et al 2011a), Ikh
Nart has successfully protected the species, but how has the
pastoralist community responded to conservation efforts?
Sample surveys using questionnaires can help researchers un-
derstand people’s perceptions and attitudes toward wildlife or
conservation (Htun et al 2012; Tessema et al 2010). Most of the
literature suggests that developing positive local attitudes and
perceptions toward protecting natural resources require
substantial economic incentives (Holmes 2003; Vodouhê et al
2010) and that socioeconomic and demographic factors often
correlate with perceptions (Baral and Stern 2011; Hu et al 2010). For
example, nature-based tourism development has often led to
positive conservation attitudes across Asia (Baral 2014; Khadka and
Nepal 2010; Mehta and Heinen 2001). Yet, in some protected areas
residents strongly oppose conservation efforts (Holmes 2003;
Mehta and Kellert 1998; Wang et al 2006).
We used a short questionnaire to examine local people’s atti-
tudes and perceptions towardnature and nature conservation in Ikh
Nart. We further examined if and how Ikh Nart conservation acti-
vitiesdmodest ecotourism, jobs, education and outreach programs,
and participation in projectsdinﬂuenced local people’s attitudes,
knowledge, and perceptions toward conservation. Active conser-
vation activities started in 2000 in the northern portion of the
reserve, within Dalanjargalan soum (an administrative unit similar
to a county), hereafter referred to as Dalan. Dalan conservation
presence includes a research center, small-scale ecotourism, a small
craft cooperative, and education and outreach programs. Interna-
tional and Mongolian biologists use the research center, with a ca-
pacity of w40 people, year-round. Over 4 years prior to our study,
work expanded to include minimal work (ranger patrols and argali
captures) in the southern portion of the reserve, within Airag Soum.
We compared differences in attitudes, perceptions, and knowledge
between the two soums. Pastoralists from both soums participate in
small economic opportunities (<$200/y/person) through ranger
programs (2e3 rangers per soum), assisting with wildlife capture
(w13 people from each soum), and some ecotourism assistance. We
expected Dalan residents to possess more ecologically informed
knowledge and positive attitudes and perceptions toward conser-
vation than Airag residents because of their exposure to extensive
conservation work over more than a decade. We also examined our
data for demographic and socioeconomic differences.
Material and methods
Ikh Nart Nature Reserve (666 km
) was established in 1996 in
Dornogovi Aimag and lies 300 km south-southeast of Ulaanbaatar
(Figure 1). Centered at 45.5
E, Ikh Nart sits in a transition
zone between the Gobi Desert to the south and the Mongolia
Figure 1. Map of Mongolia’s protected areas system from Reading et al (2015). The questionnaires were administered in Ikh Nart nature reserve during the summer of 2012.
WM Sarmento, RP Reading / Journal of Asia-Paciﬁc Biodiversity 9 (2016) 263e270264
Steppe to the north. A typical continental climate with extreme
ﬂuctuations in daily and seasonal temperatures characterizes this
arid area (<200 mm average annual precipitation). Dry and cold (e
C) winters give way to dry and windy (90 km/h) springs and
relatively wet and hot (to 43
C) summers. Desertesteppe plant
communities consist mainly of tall and short feather grasses (Stipa
spp.) along with shrubs (e.g. Caragana pygmaea,Ajania fruticulosa,
Kochia prostrata,Gypsophila desertorum,Ephedra spp.; Wingard et al
2011a). Resident ungulates include argali and ibex (Capra sibirica),
whereas more nomadic ungulate visitors include Asian wild asses
(Equus hemionus), Goitered gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), and
Mongolian gazelle (Procapra gutturosa). Large carnivores in the
reserve are domestic dogs (Canis familiaris), wolves (Canis lupus),
and lynx (Lynx lynx).
Along with our colleagues, we have conducted conservation and
scientiﬁc activities consistently in the Dalan portion of the reserve
since 2000. In Dalan, conservation activities included (1) operation
of a year-round wildlife research center; (2) a small-scale, nature-
based tourism camp that operates in summer only; (3) a women’s
cooperative that produces small crafts for sale to tourists and in a
small U.S. market; (4) education and outreach programs; and (5)
park management actions, such as antipoaching operations, resto-
ration work, and interpretation. The education and outreach pro-
gram entailed conducting teacher workshops/training, developing
conservation education material and curriculum, producing pro-
motion materials (e.g. calendars, posters), exchanges between stu-
dents from Mongolia and Colorado, USA, and holding an annual
Conservation Day. Conservation education and outreach programs
occurred only in Dalan at the time of this study. Furthermore, local
people participated in workshops, reserve management discussions,
and comment periods annually. Conversely, much less activity
occurred in Airag Soum until recently (2011). A research project paid
local people from both soums for assistance with argali captures
(w$200/person/year) and ranger patrols (w$1500/person/year).
Thus, people in both soums received marginal economic incentives,
with people in Dalan much more exposed to conservation activities.
A resident pastoralist population of approximately 43 families,
made up of 180 members, resided in the Dalan portion of Ikh Nart
for about half the year, usually in winter (Wingard et al 2011b). The
more arid Airag portion of the reserve contained slightly fewer
people, so less than 86 families lived Ikh Nart. Ikh Nart exists as an
open access resources, with no grazing right, so pastoralists can
graze their livestock throughout most of the Reserve. Wingard et al
(2011b) recorded 3,461 sheep, 3,304 goats, 918 horses, 428 cattle,
and 65 camels in the north half of the reserve in 2003; numbers
likely increased since that time. Assuming similar numbers in the
south half of the reserve and using sheep equivalents of6 for horses
and 5 for cattle, gives a stocking rate of over 22 sheep units/km
We created a 22-item questionnaire to gain insight into local
people’s attitudes, knowledge, and perceptions toward grassland
condition, conservation issues, and argali. Our questionnaire
strictly followed the British Sociological Association’s ethical
practice guidelines, and all necessary permissions were obtained to
conduct interviews. The questionnaire contained 19 structured
closed-ended questions and three open-ended questions that
allowed people to express additional thoughts or feelings (Brenard
2011). We developed the questionnaire in English and translated it
into Mongolian. We translated the responses back into English and
triple-checked the translations for accuracy. To avoid interviewer
bias, in which interviewees seek to “please”researchers (Davis and
Silver 2003), we hired a Mongolian biology student to administer
the questionnaires on her own from June 1 to July 20, 2012. We
instructed the student in interview methodology, speciﬁcally
directing her not to help respondents answer questions and to
inform respondents that interviews were anonymous, conﬁdential,
and for scientiﬁc purposes only. We pretested interviews to ensure
clarity. We attempted to census all families; however, we only
completed 55 interviews, which is nearly all of the families in the
reserve (Amgalanbaatar and Reading, personal communication).
We administered the questionnaire to only one family member per
household, the head of the household, to avoid problems of pseu-
doreplication, but with recognition that this created a bias by not
sampling all demographics in households.
We analyzed data using the statistical program R (R Foundation)
version 3.0.1. Because of the small sample sizes, we ran univariate
linear models on response variables in R. We determined signiﬁ-
cance using ttest and set the alpha level at p0.05 and report
means as 1 standard error. Coefﬁcient estimates and tscores are
reported in Appendixes 1 and 2.
We analyzed categorical responses using Pearson’s
examine variables for signiﬁcant differences responses. We
dichotomized continuous, explanatory variables for categorical
response owing to the low sample size. We based cutoffs on sta-
tistical medians to provide the most balanced sample sizes (Mehta
and Kellert 1998). For example, we converted age into a binary
variable, with respondents younger than 40 years classiﬁed as
young and respondents older than 41 years categorized as old.
Similarly, we converted length of time a respondent lived in the
reserved into short (10 years) or long (11 years). We categorized
number of livestock owned by pastoralists into 500 animals and
fewer or more than 500 animals. We also categorized whether or
not a person had assisted with argali captures (all rangers assist), as
a binary variable. In Mongolia, the literacy rate is 96%, and thus we
did not expect level of education to vary greatly and so did not
collect data on this parameter.
We obtained 20 (36.4%) questionnaires from people in Airag
Soum and 35 (63.6%) came people in Dalan Soum, for a total of 55
questionnairesda near census of the reserve (Amgaalanbataar and
Reading, personal communication). Male (n¼46; 83.6%) and
Table 1. Perceived threats to argali (Ovis ammon) in Ikh Nart Nature Reserve,
Mongolia by pastoralists from Dalanjargalan (Dalan) and Airag Soums (similar to U.S.
Threat Mean Standard Error df p
Dalan (n¼35) Airag (n¼20)
Hunting 1.00 0.08 1.30 0.08 39 0.046
Domestic dogs 1.31 0.09 1.40 0.09 39 0.803
Tourism 1.49 0.07 3.00 0.15 39 <0.001
Wolves 2.26 0.14 2.35 0.15 39 0.043
Overgrazing 3.23 0.19 1.95 0.10 39 0.002
3.64 0.17 2.55 0.18 37 <0.001
3.71 0.16 2.70 0.15 38 0.002
Climate change 4.09 0.16 3.25 0.15 39 0.001
Dzud and drought 4.14 0.16 2.70 0.12 39 0.001
Mean Standard Error scores based on a 1e5 scale, where 1 indicates no threat at
all and 5 indicates a substantial threat. Comparisons made using linear model ttests.
Dalanjargaaln Soum had a 10-year history of conservation presence and education
and outreach programs, whereas Airag Soum did not. See Appendixes 1 and 2 for
coefﬁcient estimates and Tvalues.
The number of times respondents had helped with Ikh Nart activities had a
signiﬁcant inﬂuence on their perception of illegal mining as a threat to argali (see
WM Sarmento, RP Reading / Journal of Asia-Paciﬁc Biodiversity 9 (2016) 263e270 265
female (n¼9; 16.4%) participants ranged in age from 19 to 77 years,
with a mean age of 42 13.91 years. Of this total, 26 (49.1%) re-
spondents fell into the young category, whereas 27 (50.9%) were
classiﬁed as old (41 years old). Twenty-six (42.3%) of the pasto-
ralists we interviewed had participated in Ikh Nart argali captures,
whereas the other 29 (57.7%) had not. Seventeen people in Dalan
(30.9% of people surveyed) had assisted with argali captures,
compared to nine pastoralists in Airag (16.4% of people surveyed).
Twenty-ﬁve (49.0% of respondents) pastoralists owned less than
500 head of livestock, whereas 26 owned more than 500 animals
(51.0% of respondents). Finally, 19 (35.2%) respondents had lived in
Ikh Nart for less than 10 years (short category), whereas 35 (64.8%)
had lived in the reserve for a long time (>10 years). Some variables
did not add up to 55 because of the missing responses.
We found both similarities and differences in responses from
people from the two different soums (Tables 1e3). We asked pas-
toralists to rank potential threats to argali (Table 1). The vast ma-
jority (91%) of respondents across Ikh Nart believed that hunting
did not pose a threat to argali, a belief signiﬁcantly greater for re-
spondents from Airag as opposed to those from Dalan (Table 1).
Tourism was viewed as a signiﬁcantly greater threat in Airag versus
Dalan (Table 1). We found no signiﬁcant difference in the perceived
threat of dogs and wolves from respondents of the two soums in the
Reserve (Table 1). For other potential threats, pastoralists from
Dalan reported signiﬁcantly higher degrees of concern than did
pastoralists from Airag (Table 1). These other potential threats
included overgrazing, illegal mining, dzuds (i.e. different types of
severe winter weather phenomena, such as deep snow or heavy ice
cover), droughts, and climate change.
The overwhelming majority of respondents (96.4%) thought
protecting argali in the reserve was very important. The same ma-
jority (96.4%) of respondents believed it was possible for argali and
livestock to coexist (Table 2). When asked how important it is to
protect argali, interviewees responded positively, with means of
4.4 1.14 in Airag and 5.0 0.00 in Dalan. Pastoralists across the
reserve (49.1%) believed that argali populations were increasing or
stable, and 74.5% of respondents thought the argali distribution was
stable. Most (69.1%) pastoralists thought livestock did not affect
argali movement. When asked to provide a number for the ideal
livestock herd size, respondents from Dalan gave a mean of
630.88 44.03 head, whereas pastoralists from Airag answered
with a mean of 775 53.51 head; the difference was not signiﬁcant
¼14. 87, p¼0.24, df ¼12). We also found no signiﬁcant differ-
ence in the number of livestock owned by families from the two
soums (Tabl e 3). Pastoralists across the reserve thought that grass-
land condition had not changed over the past 10 years (Table 3).
Table 2. Percentage of pastoralist respondents from Dalanjargalan (Dalan) and Airag Soums (similar to U.S. counties) answering questions on argali (Ovis ammon) and pastoral
practices in Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, Mongolia.
Question Responses Dalan (%) Airag (%)
Is the area used by argali currently increasing, decreasing, or unchanged? Increasing 11 25 1.86 0.60
Unchanged 63 50
Decreasing 17 15
Uncertain 9 10
Do you think the number of argali in your area is currently increasing, decreasing, or stable? Increasing 51 45 1.86 3 0.42
Unchanged 20 35
Decreasing 17 5
Uncertain 11 15
Do you know argali are protected? Yes 100 42 24.85 2 <0.001
No 0 58
Is it currently possible for argali and livestock to coexist in the same area? Yes 97 95 0.73 2 0.69
Uncertain 0 0
No 3 5
Do livestock movements affect argali movement patterns? Yes 29 30 1.84 2 0.40
Uncertain 0 5
No 71 65
If the number of herders and livestock increases in this area, will
the population and range of argali increase, decrease, or stay the same?
Increase 26 20 10.48 3 0.02
Unchanged 40 20
Decrease 20 60
Uncertain 14 0
Would you be interested in a community grazing association of some kind? Yes 17 60 26.85 2 <0.001
Uncertain 69 0
No 14 40
Samples sizes ¼35 for Dalanjargalan Soum and 20 for Airag Soum. Comparison made using Pearson’s
tests. Dalanjargaaln Soum had a 10-year history of conservation
presence and education and outreach programs, whereas Airag Soum did not.
Table 3. Responses of pastoralists fromDalanjargalan (Dalan) and Airag Soums (similar to U.S. counties) to questions on livestock, laws, rangeland condition, and tourism in Ikh
Nart Nature Reserve, Mongolia.
Question Mean Standard Error df p
Dalan (n¼35) Airag (n¼20)
How many animals do you own? 478.07 34.93 640 44.89 40 0.392
On a scale of 1e5, how familiar are you with Mongolian wildlife
and nature laws? Where 1 is not at all familiar and 5 is very familiar.
1.43 0.13 2.10 0.13 39 0.004
On a scale of 1e10, how has the condition of rangeland changed in the
last ﬁve years? Where 10 is a lot better; 5 is no change, and 1 is a lot worse.
4.47 0.36 4.75 0.25 38 .533
On a scale of 1e5, would you support an increase in tourism in the area?
Where 1 is no support for any increase and 5 a strong support for an increase.
4.60 0.13 2.70 0.22 39 <.000
On a scale of 1e5, would you support an increase in tourism development
if it speciﬁcally included income or incentives for local herders? Where 1
is no support for an increase and 5 is strong support for an increase.
4.31 0.17 3.80 0.21 39 0.280
Comparison made using linear model ttests. Dalanjargaaln Soum had a 10-year history of conservation presence and education and outreach programs, whereas Airag Soum
did not. Other covariates did not have signiﬁcant inﬂuence on these responses. See Appendix 2 for coefﬁcient estimates and Tvalues.
WM Sarmento, RP Reading / Journal of Asia-Paciﬁc Biodiversity 9 (2016) 263e270266
Everyone interviewed in Dalan knew that argali were a protected
species, compared to 42.1% of Airag interviewees, a signiﬁcant dif-
ference (Table 2). Conversely, Dalan pastoralists felt signiﬁcantly
less familiar with Mongolian nature and wildlife laws
(mean ¼1.43 0.13) compared to Airag pastoralists
(mean ¼2.10 0.13; Table 3). Most (60.0%) Airag pastoralists
thought that argali would decline if livestock and people increased,
whereas signiﬁcantly fewer Dalan pastoralists (20.0%) thought so
(Table 2). Signiﬁcantly more respondents (60.0%) from Airag
expressed an interest in a community-grazing association than did
respondents (17.1%) from Dalan, most (68.6%) of whom were unsure.
Airag pastoralist expressed signiﬁcantly less support
(mean ¼2.70 0.22) from increases in tourism compared to Dalan
pastoralists (4.60 0.17), a signiﬁcant difference (Table 3). How-
ever, this difference dropped to insigniﬁcance when tourism
development speciﬁcally included income or incentives for local
pastoralists (Table 3). We found no signiﬁcant differences (p>0.05)
for any question between pastoralists that had actually received
small economic incentives and pastoralists that have not. Similarly,
we observed no signiﬁcant differences (p>0.05) for any question
with respect to a respondent’s age. Too few females responded,
reducing our ability to detect sex differences. We found a signiﬁcant
¼11.54, p¼0.02, df ¼4) in the perception of legal
mining as a threat to argali for people who have lived in Ikh Nart for
a short time (mean ¼3.58 0.21) versus people who had lived in
the reserve for a long time (mean ¼2.97 0.16).
Size of a respondent’s livestock herd (larges vs. small) signiﬁ-
cantly inﬂuenced respondents perception of the ideal herd size
¼33.26, p<0.001, df ¼12). Speciﬁcally, people with small herds
(<500 animals) thought that a smaller herd was ideal
(mean ¼479.17 19.76), whereas people with a larger herd size
thought more animals was ideal (mean ¼854 25.43). Further-
more, we found a signiﬁcant effect (ttest ¼0.006, df ¼38) of the
number of times respondents assisted with Ikh Nart activities on a
respondent’s view of illegal mining as a threat to argali. Speciﬁcally,
the more times a herder assisted with Ikh Nart work, the less likely
they were to view illegal mining as a threat.
In our open-ended responses, three people expressed interest in
economic development with two people saying Ikh Nart does not
do enough for local people and one person touting nature-based
tourism. Open-ended responses conﬁrmed that some people
(n¼3) appreciate the additional income resulting from employ-
ment even though we found no effect of Ikh Nart jobs on responses.
Pastoralists who participated in Ikh Nart work (n¼26) did not
signiﬁcantly differ from people who had not participated (n¼29).
Finally, our surveys uncovered evidence of species being illegally
hunted or trapped in the reserve, including gazelle, wolf, and fox.
Ikh Nart rangers should take note of these ﬁndings.
Our results support our primary hypothesis that the presence of
conservation activities positively inﬂuenced local people’s atti-
tudes, knowledge, and perceptions of natural resources and man-
agement activities in Ikh Nart. Every pastoralist surveyed from
Dalan, the soum with more than 15 years of conservation activities,
knew that argali were a protected species. Although pastoralists
from Airag believed that they knew Mongolian nature laws better
than did Dalan pastoralists, the difference may actually reﬂect their
unfamiliarity, because only 42% of Airag interviewees knew about
argali protection. Exposure of Dalan pastoralists to conservation
programs may have made them aware of their limited knowledge.
In Dalan, children have likely participated in conservation educa-
tion in their school and adults have likely participated in, observed,
or at least heard about argali and other nature conservation
programs. Nevertheless, respondents from both soums reported
relatively low perceived knowledge of wildlife laws, highlighting an
important education need.
Ikh Nart pastoralists identiﬁed climate change and dzuds as the
primarily threats to argali. Dzud refers to a difﬁcult winter for
livestock. People in Dalan ranked dzuds as the primary threat to
argali, which research suggests is accurate. Several types of dzuds
can occur, such as deep snow (white dzud) or thick ice covering
vegetation (black dzud). Dzuds can devastate livestock herds; for
example, 39% of livestock throughout Mongolia died during the
dzuds of 1999e2001 (Reading et al 2010). Additionally, argali lamb
survivorship correlates negatively with drought years (Reading et al
2009). Furthermore, a reserve manager from the nearby Ikh Gazryn
Chuluu Nature Reserve noted that argali went locally extinct there
during the last major dzud (Batbold, personal communication).
Dalan pastoralists ranked climate change as a threat similar to
dzuds, and whether they have made the connection between
climate change and increased frequency and severity of dzuds
(Angerer et al 2008) is unclear, but possible. Airag residents, by
contrast, ranked climate change as the main threat to argali. This
difference might be because argali occur at lower densities in Airag,
rendering it more difﬁcult to observe causes of mortality.
Climate change coupled with increased stocking rates likely
cause rangeland degradation that can negatively impact wildlife
(Bedunah and Schmidt 2004). Dalan pastoralists believed that
overgrazing posed a moderate threat to argali, whereas the Airag
pastoralists considered the threat marginal. Across Central Asia,
increased stocking rates have caused rangeland declines and
represent a primary threat to argali across their range (Berger et al
2013; Mallon et al 1997). Whether or not Ikh Nart suffers from
overstocking yet in remains unclear. We found that local pastoral-
ists considered the condition of the rangeland to be relatively
similar to its condition 5 years earlier. This result is may be because
precipitation patterns during 2012 led to the highest NDVI
(Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) values in 15 years (NASA
Earth and Science Data Systems).
Rural Mongolians remain closely connected to and greatly
appreciate nature (Reading et al 2010, 2015), something our results
support. Overwhelmingly, local pastoralists considered argali pro-
tection “very important”and believed they coexisted with argali in
Ikh Nart. In western Mongolia, Kazakh pastoralists also thought
argali protection was important; however, the majority of them
believed they could not coexist with argali (Maroney 2005). The
United Nations Development Programme uses Ikh Nart as a “Model
Conservation Reserve”for a protected areas project it implements
because of the reserve’s success in conserving the ecology of the
region and developing community support. Indeed, most pasto-
ralists correctly believed that the number of argali in the area was
increasing, consistent with population surveys (Wingard et al
2011a). The reserve remains a place for Mongolian pastoralists to
continue traditional livelihoods. Contrary to what Maroney (2005)
found, most of the people surveyed in Ikh Nart felt that their live-
stock movements did not inﬂuence argali distribution.
Despite negligible humanewildlife conﬂict in Ikh Nart currently,
our interviews show that conservation education and outreach
program couldcontinue making progress in some areas. For example,
pastoralists reserve-wide did not perceive dogs as an important
threat to argali, although data suggest otherwise. Numerically, dogs
are the most abundant large carnivore in the reserve and represent
the most important predator of argali in the area (Young e t a l 2011;
Amgalanbaatar, personal communication). Second, Dalan pastoral-
ists did not believe that increasing numbers of people and livestock
would negatively impact argali. Interestingly, Airag pastoralists felt
the opposite despite much less exposure to conservation education
and outreach activities. These results suggest that education and
WM Sarmento, RP Reading / Journal of Asia-Paciﬁc Biodiversity 9 (2016) 263e270 267
outreach programs could incorporate more information on range-
land principles and dog husbandry.
Nature-based tourism beneﬁts did not seem to inﬂuence re-
sponses, but tourism may have indirectly inﬂuenced response dif-
ferences between the two soums. Economic opportunities from
conservation remain relatively small and short term for local pas-
toralists. For example, one research project pays pastoralists, usu-
ally <$200/year, for their assistance with argali and ibex captures.
This roughly equals cashmere proceeds from eight goats. Addi-
tionally, a few part-time rangers earn w$200/mo and a women’s
cooperative makes traditional crafts for sale to tourists and a special
market in a U.S. zoo. Tourism through the Earthwatch Institute
funds activities and university students, representing an important
part of local conservation. Nature-based tourism is concentrated in
Dalan, and those pastoralists showed signiﬁcantly more favorable
perceptions toward it. In contrast, Airag residents actually consid-
ered tourism a moderate threat to argali. Dalan pastoralists favored
increased tourism development signiﬁcantly more than Airag
pastoralists did, although that difference disappeared when local
economic incentives were included. Thus, it appears that nature-
based tourism development boosts conservation capacity and
local income. And economics often drive conservation success,
especially in a fast developing nation (Batsaikhan et al 2014).
Mining has expanded enormously in Mongolia (Reading et al 2010,
2015), and Ikh Nart has a history of amethyst and ﬂuorite mining.
Our study shows that the nomads of Ikh Nart believed that both
illegal and legal mining posed a considerable threat.
Ikh Nart conservation programs have positively inﬂuenced local
people’s perceptions and knowledge on natural resources. Pasto-
ralists who lived in Dalan Soum with a 15-year history of conser-
vation activity were signiﬁcantly more likely to know argali were
protected and understand the threats facing the species. Despite
conservation successes, education and outreach programs should
incorporate more material on dog husbandry and rangeland man-
agement. Enforcement should continue to prevent illegal mining
and hunting. Most pastoralists either favor or remain undecided
about the possibility of a grazing association, and a well-designed
and executed community grazing organization could help address
rangeland management. Overall, Ikh Nart has succeeded by
coupling strong research with active management, capacity
development, conservation education and outreach programs, and
working with local people. Furthermore, this Reserve has demon-
strated that conservationists can develop positive attitudes and
perceptions across socioeconomic classes with very little economic
incentive by tapping into local pride and involving local people in
We thank the National Geographic Society (Grant #C201-11)
and the American Center for Mongolian Studies for ﬁnancial sup-
port. We are grateful to all the Ikh Nart students, and especially S.
Batdorj, NandinErdene-Naran, and G. Otgonbayar for ﬁeld assis-
tance. Also, many thanks to the Denver Zoological Foundation and
Mongolian Academy of Sciences for supporting the project. We are
very grateful to Sukhiin Amgalanbaatar, Gana Wingard, and Tuv-
dendorj Selenge for their assistance, support, and patience with all
aspects of logistics. Additional appreciation for Sefan Ekernas and
Joel Berger. Finally, we express our gratitude to the local herders
who looked after WMSdespecially Ulzi, Erika, and the Buya family.
Finally, we thank two anonymous reviewers.
Appendix 1. Perceived threats to argali (Ovis ammon) in Ikh Nart
Nature Reserve, Mongolia by pastoralists from Dalanjargalan
(Dalan) and Airag Soums (similar to U.S. counties).
Covariate Estimate SE Tvalue p
Intercept 3.900 0.663 5.882 <0.001
Soum 1.522 0.389 3.910 <0.001
Times assisted e0.034 0.077 e0.446 0.658
Age e0.022 0.014 e1.510 0.139
Months in Ikh Nart e0.010 0.012 e0.835 0.409
Number of livestock owned 0.000 0.001 0.269 0.790
Intercept 1.102 0.142 7.741 <0.001
Soum e0.173 0.084 e2.065 0.046
Times assisted 0.007 0.017 0.453 0.653
Age e0.001 0.003 e0.337 0.738
Months in Ikh Nart 0.001 0.002 0.279 0.782
Number of livestock owned 0.000 0.000 1.479 0.147
Intercept 2.880 0.436 6.602 <0.001
Soum e1.651 0.256 e6.446 <0.001
Times assisted e0.092 0.051 e1.819 0.077
Age 0.018 0.009 1.904 0.064
Months in Ikh Nart e0.008 0.008 e1.040 0.305
Number of livestock owned 0.000 0.000 e1.137 0.262
Intercept 2.643 0.608 4.349 <0.001
Soum e0.748 0.357 e2.096 0.043
Times assisted 0.100 0.071 1.413 0.166
Age 0.015 0.013 1.178 0.246
Months in Ikh Nart e0.002 0.011 e0.212 0.834
Number of livestock owned e0.001 0.001 e1.765 0.085
Intercept 2.177 0.403 5.399 <0.001
Soum e0.059 0.237 e0.251 0.803
Times assisted 0.034 0.047 0.722 0.475
Age e0.015 0.009 e1.733 0.091
Months in Ikh Nart 0.008 0.007 1.179 0.246
Number of livestock owned e0.001 0.000 e1.701 0.097
Intercept 2.878 0.595 4.839 <0.001
Soum 1.862 0.349 5.333 <0.001
Times assisted 0.062 0.069 0.898 0.374
Age e0.011 0.013 e0.851 0.400
Months in Ikh Nart e0.009 0.010 e0.851 0.400
Number of livestock owned 0.000 0.001 0.491 0.626
Intercept 2.757 0.707 3.898 <0.001
Soum 1.348 0.415 3.246 0.002
Times assisted e0.012 0.082 e0.143 0.887
Age e0.005 0.015 e0.357 0.723
Months in Ikh Nart 0.004 0.012 0.285 0.777
Number of livestock owned e0.001 0.001 e1.444 0.157
Intercept 2.742 0.755 3.632 0.001
Soum 1.552 0.429 3.621 0.001
Times assisted e0.179 0.084 e2.128 0.040
Age 0.003 0.016 0.180 0.858
Months in Ikh Nart e0.018 0.014 e1.319 0.195
Number of livestock owned 0.000 0.001 e0.440 0.662
Intercept 2.686 0.679 3.954 <0.001
Soum 1.315 0.399 3.297 0.002
Times assisted e0.228 0.079 e2.894 0.006
Age 0.010 0.015 0.644 0.524
Months in Ikh Nart e0.008 0.012 e0.685 0.497
Scores are based on a 1e5 scale, where 1 indicates no threat at all and 5 indicates a
substantial threat. Comparisons made using linear model ttests. Dalanjargaaln Soum
had a 10-year history of conservation presence and education and outreach pro-
grams, whereas Airag Soum did not.
SE = Standard Error.
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Questionnaires were conducted in Mongolia’s Ikh Nature Nature Reserve which is comprised of Dalanjargalan (Dalan) and Airag Soums
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Covariate Estimate SE Tvalue p
How many animals do you own?
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Intercept 2.412 0.528 4.570 <0.001
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Intercept 2.986 1.338 2.231 0.032
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Times assisted e0.171 0.152 e1.124 0.268
Age 0.027 0.029 0.931 0.358
Months in Ikh Nart 0.017 0.023 0.733 0.468
Number of livestock owned 0.001 0.001 0.940 0.353
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Intercept 2.484 0.526 4.725 <0.001
Soum 0.041 0.309 0.132 0.896
Times assisted 0.050 0.061 0.816 0.419
Age e0.022 0.011 e1.915 0.063
Months in Ikh Nart 0.011 0.009 1.166 0.251
Number of livestock owned e0.001 0.000 e1.074 0.290
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Intercept 2.223 0.716 3.103 0.004
Soum 1.804 0.421 4.288 <0.001
Times assisted e0.007 0.083 e0.080 0.937
Age 0.010 0.015 0.631 0.532
Months in Ikh Nart 0.021 0.012 1.720 0.093
Number of livestock owned e0.001 0.001 e1.008 0.320
On a scale of 1e5, would you support an increase in tourism development if it speciﬁcally included income or incentives for local herders? Where 1 is no support
for an increase and 5 is strong support for an increase.
Intercept 2.903 0.869 3.342 0.002
Soum 0.558 0.510 1.095 0.280
Times assisted e0.177 0.101 e1.752 0.088
Age 0.022 0.019 1.173 0.248
Months in Ikh Nart 0.010 0.015 0.689 0.495
Number of livestock owned 0.000 0.001 e0.390 0.698
SE = Standard Error.
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