Through work in the Eg-Uur Watershed Project, we learned that the people of northern Mongolia see taimen (a threatened fish in Mongolia and the largest salmonid in the world) as sacred, and that it is vital to the project to recognize links between traditional values and contemporary conservation issues.
Prior to tackling this important conservation issue, we wanted to demonstrate support of local Buddhist practices by rebuilding the Dayan Derkh Monastery, which provides spiritual guidance and environmental education to nomads in the Eg-Uur. The Dayan Derkh Eco-Camp now offers a summertime residential outdoor science program for children living in the watershed and beyond. From 2005-2012 we provided a scholarship to a boy from the watershed to attend monastic school and ecology classes at the Gandan Monastery in Ulaanbaatar. Lama Tseren-Ochir, is now the head lama at the Dayan Derkh. Additionally, we have provided job training, community medical care, support for poaching patrols, and eco-club tools for local teachers. Now monks are beginning to have a central leadership role in resource protection in Mongolia.
To apply the body of knowledge assembled by the Taimen Science Team and other conservation initiatives in Mongolia, we sponsor Taimen Summits (scientific meetings to explore research and community outreach needs) and Taimen Open Days (summer community festivals where people can get medical attention, enjoy sports and theater, and get the latest information on watershed conservation).
The Opportunity Grants Program offers small grants to monasteries engaged in conservation demonstration projects. Guidelines for these are often made available at the Compassion & Conservation conferences at the Gandan Monastery, organized annually for all Mongolian monks. The World Bank NEMO II Fund funded the 2010 conference along with development of the Eight Year Plan for Protection of the Environment by Mongolian Buddhists . Coupled with our annual environmental education Exchange in the United States for Mongolian religious leaders, Buddhist leaders learn how to initiate reforestation programs, build public awareness campaigns on mining best practices, and communicate about watershed education. Often these exchanges focus on how to maintain sustainable livelihoods in threatened watersheds. Linking conservation to local economies, the Women’s Sewing Collective training offered in fall of 2010 was the first in a series to create Mongolian crafts and clothing for eco-tourism gift shops in the Eg-Uur Valley and for possible export.