The Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve shows a varied ecosystem on a quite restricted territory of about 20.000 hectares. The reserve is located 130 kilometres (81 miles) East Ulan-Bator and is easily accessible in about 2.30 hours by a good tarred road. The visit of the reserve can be combined with a visit of the Equestrian statue of Genghis Khan and a hike in the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park.
The Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve is protected in order to conserve threatened species. Citizens representing Khural (local Parliament) in the sum of Bayandelger, province of Tov, created the reserve in 2003. It’s composed of three zones : one is “touristic” and open to visitors, another one has a restricted access, and the last one, central, is forbidden.
In the reserve, high mountains, steppes, rivers and lakes, and a humid zone go together harmoniously. These landscapes have suffered little from the ravages of time. The reserve is also a welcoming land for rare animals like the wild sheep (argali), the Siberian white crane, the white-naped crane, the hooded crane, the cinereous vulture, or the swan goose.
The Mountains ranges
The Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve is located about 1200 metres (3937 feet) above the sea level. Mount Baits (1641 metres, 5384 feet) and ((Berkh Mount) (1631 metres, 5351 feet) stand in this area. Mount Baits is located in the centre of the reserve, whereas Mount Berkh is in the extreme South. Both have a rich fauna and flora.
It’s surprising to notice that there is only one tree, a larch, on Mount Baits. Regarding fauna, we find many species, such as the wild sheep (argali), the gray wolf, the fox, the lynx, the wildcat manuul, the hare, the marmot and mice. Antelopes often venture to East of the mountain. Regarding ornithological species, we can find the steppe eagle, the golden eagle, the saker falcon, the kestrel, the upland buzzard, the long-legged buzzard, the Mongolian lark, the calandra lark, the crested lark, the horned lark, the thrush, the pipit, the hoopoe, the owl, or the tawny owl.
Large steppes are in the Western part of the Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve. In this area, we also find the humid zone of Delberkhii that surrounds Lake Ikh Gun and Lake Ayaga in the Northern part of the reserve, and also basins of the rivers Galuut and Kherlen. The humid zone of Delberkhii is the main source of water for Lakes Ikh Gun and Ayaga and other underground rivers. Soles are very fertile, we find very diversified flora. Birds and other animals like to come in this area.
The Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve has many lakes and basins. The largest lakes are Lake Ikh Gun (8,8 square kilometres, 3,4 square miles) and Lake Ayaga (1,2 square kilometres, 0,5 square miles). The most interesting lake is Lake Ikh Gun, because it’s composed of two parts separated by a strip of uncultivated land on which vehicles can go. Both lakes are located in the Northern part of the “touristic” zone of the reserve. Many species of birds spend their summer on the banks of the lakes (essentially on the banks of Lake Ayaga), notably gulls, ducks, gooses, swans and storks. A famous Mongolian scientist, Doctor Dashdorj, mentioned Lake Ayaga in one of his scientific articles. This is what he said : “Lake Ayaga needs an immediate protection because it’s the place where live many species of fish and birds that are endangered on a global scale”.
The Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve is crossed by many rivers, including the Kherlen River, one of the longest rivers of Mongolia, and the Ayaga, Shinebulag, Galuutai rivers, etc. All these rivers are full of fish. The Ayaga River takes its source in Lake Ayaga and joins the Kherlen River. Nowadays, 38 species of fish live in the Kherlen River, which takes its source in Mount Khentii and flows into Lake Dalai in Inner Mongolia. Among the species of fish, we find the taimen, the lenok, the amur pike, the burbot, or the flathead asp. It’s possible to fish, but only “catch and release”.
The humid zones
The humid zone of Ayaga is a rich ecosystem that houses many animal and ornithological species. The humid zone offers birds a fertile land where they can live and breed. Many species of endangered birds come here to breed, such as the black stork that is endangered in the whole world but regularly spends peaceful summers in Ayaga zone.