I Documented Mongolia’s Mystical Tsaatan Reindeer People

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Tsaatans, known as Reindeer Herder, live in the Khuvsgul Province, Northern Part of Mongolia which is near the border with Russia. Their lives are divided into two different parts which are East and West. It is said that there are approximately 500 tsaatans living in a Tsagaannuur soum.

Batzaya, me and my 4 friends went to take photos of Reindeer where it fenced off in the mountain in last November

There are probably only 40 families left with about 1,500 reindeer in both East and West Taiga

The tribal leader of east Taiga is Mr. Ganbaa and his wife Ms. Purvee and we were visited while they were in hibernation. The first day we arrived, we had a talk with leader Ganbaa about the life of taiga, at his home. While we were talking, he said that this year there are full of snows in taiga, and also he said sometimes they come together in the same place to share the latest news of Ulaanbaatar city and other interesting news.

Tribal Leader Mr. Ganbaa had already prepared approximately 20 reindeers, 3 guides for our trip

Reindeer are persistent in snow. So that Tsaatans are happier when Taiga is full of snow. Mongolian reindeer are semi- wild animals, so they are not fed by any additional foods.

A girl, who glossed her lips, helped the family to collect woods. Winter is time to go to school for children

Reindeer in the full moon. Reindeer is tied in the evening and freed during a day, because of protecting wild games

Sun rises late in the morning and sun sets early in evening in Taiga

Enjoy the sun rise from Grandma Suren’s teepee, Urts. Grandma heat the stove before we woke up and teepee warmed up quickly.

Tsaatan’s life is only based on their Reindeers. They don’t have any other animals, except of few horses, but they use them only in summertime

First time riding a reindeer is completely different to ride a horse

You will know how they have such a strong foot and they go faster than you expect, as soon as you ride them.

Reindeer herder Mr. Sanchir, son of tribal Leader Mr. Ganbaa lead us to place where the reindeer fenced off in the mountains

There are less wild games except wolves around the area where reindeer live, the reason why is that reindeer body smells similar to human body. Main enemy to reindeer is wolf, and reindeer cannot defend itself against wolf.

We arrived in camping place of our first day trip to North. After 4 to 5 hours of riding reindeer both human and reindeer are tired

For the safety of riders, and also to avoid reindeer to get hurt from each other, tsaatans cut the antlers (horn) of their reindeer

After long trip like 40 kilometers, we reached the final destination while sun was setting. Even we were so tired, by that time we energized by seeing a large number of reindeer. That was the beginning of our experience with reindeer for few days.

Reindeer need more salt during the winter time. Therefore, we bring plenty of salt to feed them

Batkhuu, a member of Tsaatan minority group, one of our local guide is so photo-genetic and it is sad that modern development makes its way into their remote habitat, their ancient traditions are now at risk of dying out

Reindeer is able to find grass easily by cracking thick snow by its front two feet

Plant so called white moss usually covered with ice which comes from the first snow is eaten by reindeer.

A city girl fed up the baby reindeer

We brought some salt to feed reindeer, and it was the most appreciated gift for the Tsaatans. Our group members were so happy. Then we just tried to feed baby reindeer by chocolate, but can you imagine cute baby reindeer were eating snickers…

Sacred animal – Reindeer play an important role in the Dukha’s shamanistic tradition

The white reindeer is considered to be sacred.

Modern development makes its way into their remote habitat, their ancient traditions are now at risk of dying out

An elder of Tsaatan Minority group in East Taiga, grandma Suren was kindly invited us at her Teepee, Urts

Usually male reindeer is used for riding. A single reindeer can travel 30 kilometers or more in a single day

Till the spring comes, and till the snow meltdown, Tsaatans are keep their reindeers in a base of huge mountainside, and leave them there without anyone

So then reindeers protected by huge mountains and thick snows. Tsaatans erase the footprint of reindeer to prevent from wolf attack. Because the only enemy of them is a wild wolf.

Bulls are fighting each other. Main enemy to reindeer is wolf, and reindeer cannot defend itself against wolf

Reindeer are going down to pass and in the south it flows Tengis River. It’s huge river, so it wasn’t frozen completely

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