The Ministry of Environment and Green Development of Mongolia designated the year of 2013 as the “Year of Protecting Mazaalai – Gobi Bear”.  The very rare Mazaalai, or Gobi Bear, is a subspecies of the brown bear that is found in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. The small population of Gobi bears living in the Gobi Desert is estimated to be of only 22 individuals (8 female and 14 male),  which makes them vulnerable to outside threats.

This endangered species live among rocky mountains in the most remote parts of the Gobi Desert, wandering near oases and mountain ranges with water sources where they can survive through harsh and extreme desert climate. The Mazaalai survives mostly by eating leaves, berries, grass roots and occasionally catching lizards or mice.

The Ministry has unveiled a series of protective measures, which includes establishing a nature reserve to restore a safe habitat for these rare wild species, opening a zoo, setting up a working group to explore ways of increasing their population, involving foreign expertise on wild animals protection and reproduction, and setting up a fund for protecting the Mazaalai.