National Geographic : 2011 Oct
cut to 90. Across Mongolia some eight million animals---cows, yaks, camels, horses, goats, and sheep---died that winter. "A er that, I just couldn't see our future in the countryside any more," Ochkhuu said quietly. "So we decided to sell what was le of our herd and make a new life." It was also a clear-eyed calculation to improve the lives of their children. Ochkhuu and Norvoo feel no great a nity for city life, but they see its advantages. In the countryside they were far removed from nurses and schools, but here they can get free medical care for their infant son, and Anuka can attend a public school. ere are more than half a million Ochkhuus and Norvoos living these days in UB, as Mongo- lians call Ulaanbaatar. Many have been driven from the steppe by bad winters, bad luck, and bad prospects. And now that Mongolia's coal, gold, and copper mines are attracting billions in foreign investment, they also have ooded into UB in search of job prospects created by the economic upsurge from mining money. Beyond the downtown high-rises, UB of- ten feels like a frontier town run amok, strewn lengthwise along a river valley like gravel le behind by a ash ood. Founded in 1639 as a movable Buddhist monastic center and trading With a sick heart, Ochkhuu (at left) and his father-in-law, Jaya, dispose of sheep and goat carcasses after the winter of 2009-2010, which killed millions of livestock across Mongolia. "These animals were my life," says Jaya, who lost 800 of his 1,100 head to starvation and exposure---a fortune for a herder. Don Belt has authored 22 stories for National Geographic. Mark Leong was the 2010 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year.