Citizen Scientists are needed immediately to help monitor the wild horses of Mongolia and ensure their survival. Support our partner in Hustai National Park as they conserve and protect important ecosystems and reintroduce and sustain these amazing horses.
The takhi, Mongolian for “spirit”, are a rare and endangered subspecies of wild horse native to the steppes of central Asia. They are the last remaining breed of truly wild horse and are an important part of Mongolian culture and a symbol of their national heritage. At one time the takhi roamed freely from Mongolia and China in the east, to as far as France in the west. Loss of habitat gradually limited their range to the steppes along the Mongolia-China border. This is where they were “discovered” in 1881 by the Russian colonel and explorer Nikolai Przhevalsky who had embarked on an expedition to find the horses, based on rumors of their existence. The horse was named after him, and they are known outside Mongolia as Przewalski’s horses.
The native population declined in the 20th century due to a combination of factors, with the wild population in Mongolia dying out in the 1960s. At one time only 12 captive Przewalski’s horses were left in the world, and their future was bleak. Captive breeding programs were started in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and were so successful that in just fifty years the species rebounded to over 1500 individuals. These horses were slowly reintroduced to their native Mongolian habitat in an attempt to reestablish the wild population.
Our partner oversees the tahki in Hustai National Park, which is located about 95 km west of the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. The scientists are based in a camp located in the park where they monitor the wild horses. Volunteers work side by side with the researches helping to collect information about the tahki and help conserve these amazing horses.
You will be observing the horses in the field, noting their behavior, the growth of the foals, and their numbers and distribution. The data and information collected by the volunteers is used by the resident biologists and researchers to help them manage the reintroduction of takhi into the wild, and to aid the study and protection of the forest-steppe ecosystem.
Each day you will be driven to an area where the horse harem that you will be observing is located. Volunteers are dropped off and left in the field to make their observations. In the afternoon you will go to the field station and enter your findings into their computer. You will also be able to work on special projects that are being completed by the research team.
Volunteer shifts begin at 8:00 am and finish at 4:00 pm. Volunteers have 1-2 days off per week. The schedule is determined when you arrive at Hustai National Park.
While in Hustai National Park, volunteers stay in shared yurts on the location at the project. Accommodation is comfortable but simple. There is electricity in your yurt and a wood stove for heating if the nights are cold. The camp is equipped with a shower, toilet and restaurant. Electricity is available at this location, however cell phone signal is limited. There is no internet access on-site; volunteers can visit internet cafés when in Ulaanbaatar. Three meals will be provided for you each day.
Do you have questions about safety? We have answers right here!
Airport pick up and drop off (at the closest airport), accommodation, meals, on-site training, donation to Placement Partner, AEI Travel Manual, emergency support while at placement, carbon credits to offset 3 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, premium Individual Travel Insurance (up to $500, 000 USD in emergency medical coverage), travel discounts (through automatic membership to a volunteer only travel discount program), 24/7 travel and emergency assistance, enrolment with the Global Travel Academy to earn a certificate in International Volunteering. This 3-hour online course is curated by travel professionals and is designed to help you get the most out of your adventure.
Flights, entry visa costs, international and domestic airport taxes, immunizations and medications. Note: The rabies vaccine is recommended but not required for this Experience however, if volunteers are interested in becoming rabies vaccinated, the average cost is $600- $1000 in North America.
What is Serious
The mission of our partner in Hustai National Park is to conserve the ecosystems and biodiversity in the park, protect historical stone monuments, build up the wild takhi population, organize national and international workshop and meetings, and develop eco tourism to support local communities. Your participation will directly and indirectly support all aspects of this important work. You will be helping with the scientific studies that will support the conservation efforts of this organization. Gathering information on the numbers, health and behaviour of the horse population, allows the scientists to evaluate the state of the herds and make educated conservation decisions. Your support also helps the communities around the park. By volunteering with this organization you are ensuring that there will be a future for the wild horses in Hustai National Park.
What is Fun
Immerse yourself in a truly Mongolian experience. You will be living in a traditional felt yurt on the steppes of Mongolia, while you help protect an endangered and amazing species. This placement requires volunteers to be fairly independent. If you happen to be the only volunteer helping at the time, you will go to the field each day by yourself - a true vacation for many. If you want to be sure you will not be alone, this is a good opportunity to travel with a friend or family member to have someone to keep you company!
In your down time you can play cards, go for hikes, play basketball and attend programming in the National Park such as musical performances, screenings of Mongolian movies, storytellers, and contortionists. The park is a busy place for tourists so there are always people around. You can also make friends with the university students that work in the park. These students work at the park for one summer to learn English and make some money. This means that dinners are sit down and the servers dress up and practice their serving techniques.
If you enjoy hiking, there are many opportunities for you to explore the area. You will find UNESCO sites nearby to walk to, and dunes that are two hour walk away. To provide extra motivation to exercise, you will have an hour long climb up a small mountain to get cell phone reception!
Once a week you will be driven into Ulaanbaatar (for free) and you can do your emailing, shopping, sightseeing (temples, museums), and even eat ice cream. As part of your experience you will also take part in cultural programming. This can include a trip to a UNESCO world heritage site, the opportunity to ride tiny horses, and a visit to a Mongolian nomadic family. This visit is two days and one night, and you can try traditional Mongolian food - such as fermented horse milk!
Observing these wild horses will be a magical experience you will never forget. And your visit to Mongolia will be a trip of a lifetime. Want to read what our alumni have to say? Check out what the wonderful Sandy Sharkey wrote in Conjour. World. You can see more of her stunning photography on her blog!
Dates and Details
This is an ongoing program with operations from May 15th - October 15th each year. There are no specific start or end dates. We work with you and your schedule so you can serve this community and help animals when you are available.
Are you thinking of fundraising for a portion, or all your fees? Many of our clients have been very successful with their fundraising efforts. To learn more about their successful fundraising projects and see how you can fund raise for your experience, please visit our fundraising page!