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Q&A with Munkhjargal Myagmar: Working for wildlife conservation in Mongolia

Posted: 5 June 2023

Australia Awards alumna Munkhjargal Myagmar is contributing to Mongolia by managing nature reserves for the benefit of wildlife and local communities. For World Environment Day 2023, Munkhjargal recently answered a few of our questions about her work and her Scholarship experience. Her responses below are an interesting insight into the threats to Mongolian wildlife, including the country’s national bird.

Can you tell us a little about your background and the work you are doing in your field?

I completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in ecology and conservation biology at the National University of Mongolia. After graduating, I started working at the Zoological Society of London’s Mongolia program and continued working there for almost nine years. Then, between 2019-2021 I completed my Master of Environmental Management at the University of Queensland with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship. Upon returning to my home country, I joined the Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia as a Conservation Director. In this role, I am responsible for conservation aspects of our ongoing projects and studies. This also includes the management of the Khurkh and Khuiten Nature Reserve in Khentii aimag, Mongolia, for which my organisation has recently assumed responsibility. The Khurkh and Khuiten river valleys are unique and wonderful wetlands which support various species of cranes and endangered birds as well as the livelihood of a few hundred families along with their livestock. We have hired dedicated specialists and rangers on ground to establish a park administration and are working to improve our conservation effort to ensure the long-term sustainable use of this area.

Additionally, the Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia does a great deal of work monitoring and tracking various species of migratory bird, from cranes and falcons to vultures and pelicans. As part of this work, my organisation works with other similar organisations from different countries located on relevant migration routes and flyways. We use novel approaches to study bird populations and their migration, from using colour bands to satellite based GPS tracking devices. This creates opportunities to study the various aspects of birds including habitat use, population dynamics, threats and mortality of birds. Through these studies, we hope to protect threatened birds species along their migration routes and to conserve the crucial wetlands which are vital habitat for not only birds but for all biodiversity.

How has your Australia Awards Scholarship contributed to your career and the development of Mongolia?

When I was doing my bachelor’s degree, I studied ecology and conservation science. But when I was studying at the University of Queensland, I learnt more about overall environmental management skills. Also, during my studies, I aimed to get more understanding of climate change and community-related issues, as well as international collaboration and development of protected areas. My organisation has recently taken over the management of the newly designated Khurkh and Khuiten Nature Reserve in Khentii aimag, Mongolia. Currently, we are planning to develop this newly established protected area into a model park where wildlife and humans coexist and use natural resources sustainably to adapt to the emerging effects of climate change. To achieve this ambitious plan to restore fragile wetland ecosystems and support livelihoods in the surrounding community, I will utilise my skills and knowledge gained from my Australia Awards Scholarship.

What is your message for Mongolians who are looking to apply for an Australia Awards Scholarship?

I would like to say that the Australia Awards Scholarship is one of the most beneficial scholarships in Mongolia. For example, the Scholarship allows recipients to bring their family to Australia while we study there. I first heard about this scholarship in 2010. However, I did not have the confidence to apply at the time. Then, in 2017, I applied for the scholarship but did not get selected. Finally, I applied again in 2018 and became a recipient of the Australia Awards Scholarships. Therefore, getting this Scholarship was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and my family. Our time in Australia together was enjoyable and memorable. To potential applicants who are planning to apply for the Scholarship in the near future, I say: you can do it. Just be brave and apply for it. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to the Australian Government and their citizens for allowing me to pursue my master’s degree in Australia.