When Dogoono’s only horse died early in the winter, she cried for days. But now the Mongolian herder keeps losing so many of her animals she does not have any tears left.
“I think how long can I cry for them? I have to be strong,” she said.
The 72-year-old lives in Undurkhangai district, Uvs Province in western Mongolia. Her family is one of an estimated 70,000 herder households – totaling roughly 400,000 people, or about one-seventh of Mongolia’s overall population – that have lost a significant portion of their livestock to a slow moving disaster called a dzud, a draught followed by a harsh winter, a natural phenomenon unique to the Mongolian Steppe.
Years of chronic overgrazing coupled with a severe draught last summer left the sheep, goats, cows, horses and camels who live on the steppe weak and unable to gain weight and survive the harsh winter amid temperatures that have regularly dropped to 40 below zero. Dzuds usually occur in a five-year cycle.
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