By Casey Frye, CCNN Head Writer
The Gobi Desert is the 5th largest desert region in the world and lies between the countries of China and Mongolia. It is also home to the Gobi bear, the rarest type of bear in the whole world. Now, because of the mining industry, droughts (water shortages), and illegal hunting, the number of Gobi bears is down to fewer than 40.
Gobi bears are remarkable for their ability to survive in the harsh conditions of the Gobi Desert, which can boil at temperatures of around 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer and plummet to a frigid -80 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter. The hot landscape only receives about 2-8 inches in rainfall per year, but between the years 1993 and 2007, a devastating drought gripped the region and parched the already dry desert, killing many of the bears.
The Gobi Desert covers almost half a million square miles, and thousands of those miles are a conservation area called the Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area (GGSPA). Despite their large size, the furry bears tend to hover around three minor areas, which also happen to contain three oases that are the only source of water for miles.
However, Mongolia recently discovered that the Gobi is brimming with precious metals, fossil fuels, coal, and valuable minerals. Recent estimates suggest that creating a multi-billion dollar mining industry will count for one third of the nation’s wealth, but require tons of water. Sadly, there is already a coal mine in the works, and there’s no saying how the Gobi bear numbers will be affected by the industrial production.
Then, there’s a worsening problem with ninja miners – individuals who gather metals for their own benefit. They may seem relatively harmless when compared to large-scale industrial mining operations hogging water, but an act as simple as camping out by an oasis might scare a bear from taking a thirst-quenching drink.
Featured image courtesy of GOBI BEAR /Ursus arctos gobiensis/ Mazaalai on Facebook. Image of collared Gobi bear courtesy of GOBI BEAR /Ursus arctos gobiensis/ Mazaalai/ Jenny E. Ross on Facebook.