NATURE RESERVES OF KAZAKHSTAN

Aksu-Zhabagly

Aksu-Zhabagly natural reserve is located on north-west spurs of Talassky Alatau and neighboring Ugamsk range of the great mountain land of West Tien Shan. At a height from 1000 up to 4,280 m above sea level, there is all the magnificence of “Heaven Mountains”: snowy peaks, narrow river valleys with torrential mountain flows, grand rocks, beautiful waterfalls, deep gorges with their wild inhabitants. Aksu-Zhabagly is the first and oldest natural reserve of Central Asia and Kazakhstan. It was founded on July 14, 1926 by the Council of People’s Commissars of the Kazakh ASSR. Resolution on founding of the natural reserves states that it was founded “to completely preserve untouched the rivers Aksu and Zhabagly, with all their tree and shrubbery, carpet plants and animal kingdom living here, as a natural monument”. Initially, the area made up 30 thousand ha, at present, it is 131,934.3 ha. The highest peak of the natural reserve is the peak Sairam with a height of 4238 m above sea level, people call it Aktyueolgen, since its shape resembles a breathless lying camel. Major rivers of the natural reserve are Aksu and Zhabagly, which name it got. Flowing to the west, they fall into the river Arys. The largest river of the natural reserve is Aksu, its length is 120 km. It is a typical mountain river with rapid flow, in May, it is blue, in summer – milk white. Place of confluence of Small and Big Aksu, there is the beautiful canyon Aksu 500 m deep, distance between the upper canyon ends is 700-800 m. the river Zhabagly is twice shorter and twice narrower than Aksu. Because of clay, the waters are yellow, and sometimes red in color. Rivers are nourished from glaciers. In total, there are 114 glaciers, the largest are Bugulutor and Shungulduk. There are around 27 small lakes on the natural reserve area, they all are at a height of from 3000 up to 3500 m, that is on a constant snow line. Amazing animals and plants inhabit these mountains. According to latest data, there are 267 types of birds, 52 – mammals, 11 – reptiles, 3 – amphibians in the natural reserve. Natural reserve flora includes 1737 types of plants, of which 63 are weeds, 63 – moss, 64 – lichen, 235 – mushrooms, 1312 types of higher plants, including 17 types of trees and 62 types of shrubs.

Alakol

Alakol state natural reserve was founded by the Resolution of the Government of Kazakhstan dated April 21, 1998 to preserve natural complexes, animal and plant world of the Tentek river delta, and the unique population of the Lonnberg’s gull and other colonial birds on the islands of Alakol. It is situated in Alakol district of Almaty region, and Urdzharsky district of East-Kazakhstani region. Initially the area made up 12,520 ha, thereafter it was increased up to 20,743 ha. Since October 2010, the area was expanded with land of Urdzharsky region. Alakol-Sasykkol lake system takes the desert hollow between the mountains of Dzungarian Alatau and Tarbagatai in southeast of Kazakhstan. There is the system of large lakes in the center here: Sasykkol, Koshkarkol, Uyaldy, Alakol, Zhalanashkol. Alakol lake is truly unique. The center of the lake consists of three islands that are the protected zone. All important migration routes of the birds heading to African and Indian islands intercross here. This feathered diversity often includes Red Book species: European and Dalmatian pelican, whooping swan, white-tailed sea eagle, stiff tail, harrier eagle, demoiselle, bustard and others.

Almaty

Almaty natural reserve was founded in 1931 within the Small-Almaty forestry on the northern slope of Zailiskiy Alatau. In 1951, the natural reserve was closed, and in 1961, it was restored. It is situated in the center of Zailiskiy Alatau and on the left shore of the river Ily. It’s one of the largest in Kazakhstan in area - almost 92 thsd. ha, of which 9.5 thsd. ha — forests, 14 thsd. ha – the meadows, and 137 ha — water reservoirs. Preserved area is in Talgar mountain group, the highest mountain of the natural reserve is located here – the peak Talgar (5017 m), due to the mountain relief, there are only two rivers here – Talgar and Issyk. Central farm of the reserve is in the city of Talgar, Akku microdistrict (Lebedinka). Mountain nature in the natural reserve is very picturesque. On slopes of Zailiskiy Alatau, there are the clear landscapes of piedmont steppes, forest-meadow-steppe, subalpine and alpine zones. The knot of Talgar 5,087 high is of huge interest. Flora and fauna of the natural reserve are diverse: bushes of the crab apple, apricot, hawthorn are changing with soft-wood forests from the Tien Shan fir-tree. Mountain meadows appear from the height of 2,800 m above sea level, there are lots of the Turgai juniper at the edge of forests and subalpine meadows. The watershed part of Zailiskiy Alatau is occupied with glacier-snowy highlands. There are many huge glaciers, snowfields and harsh cliffs here. Animal world includes 39 types of mammals. They are the Siberian ibex, wild sheep, roes, elks. Predators include Tien Shan brown bears, wolves, foxes, martens, sometimes, the snow leopard. Between the mountains Kolkon there is the famous Singing Barkhan around 150 m high, it produces strong noise, while moving on its sand falls. Fauna’s characteristic species are the goitered gazelle, in the riparian forests of Ily, one can see the pheasants, common sand grouse, lots of lizards. Much work is done in the natural reserve to reveal relations between organisms in highland and desert conditions. Most interesting are the accustoming tests on the Tien Shan bisons and other animals, and restoration of most valuable soft-wood forests. The natural reserve was founded to preserve and study the natural complexes of the North Tien Shan and to preserve the unique “Singing Sands”.

Barsakelmes

The natural reserve Barsakelmes has the total preserved area of 105,879 ha, and a buffer zone of 54,947 ha. As an administrative unit, the natural reserve is in Aral district of Kyzylorda region, 300 km to the south-west from the city of Aralsk, and 210 km to the west from the city of Kazalinsk. Barsakelmes history started from the hunting entity “Soyuzpushnina”, founded in 1929. At that time, besides large-toothed susliks, there were goitered gazelles, saigas, Russian hares, European partridges, Syr Daria pheasants brought to the island. In 1939, the natural reserve was based on this hunting entity. By its opening, there were 50-60 saiga heads. In 1953, the koulans were brought from Badhyza (Turkmenia). Nowadays, the population includes 400 heads. In addition, the natural reserve has become a shelter for other rare birds and animals. Many of them are in the Red Book of Kazakhstan. The natural reserve area has increased by tens times. Today, it is protected by the government. The natural reserve in Eurasian space is classified as the zone of protected ecosystems of northern and mid-deserts of the temperature zone. Scientists say that it is the rarely beautiful natural laboratory. According to experts, the natural reserve Barsakelmes that appeared in blue Aral is the real research center.

West Altai

The natural reserve West Altai takes the area of 56,078 ha by the north-eastern border of East-Kazakhstani region, occupying two administrative districts: Ridder (former Leninogorsk) and Zyryanovsky. The most famous place of this zone and of the partially natural reserve is the so called Black Node – joint of three major chains (Koksu, Ivanov and Kholzun). It is the place of the “Stone Fairy Tale” – natural stone statues and structures widely famous among tourists. Visit to this unique place is included in many popular touristic and sport-touristic routes, that pass ecological paths of West-Altai natural reserve. The largest lakes are Cedar and Sherbakov. They are at the edge of forests and alpine zones. Tens of small streams form raised moss, in particular, the largest moth in West Altai – Gulbishe, in the riverhead of Black Uba. West Altai state natural reserve was founded by the Resolution of the Supreme Council of Kazakhstan in July 1992, to provide the integrated protection of geobiocoenosis of the mountain chain Kazakhstani Altai. Tourism perspectives in the natural reserve are: scientific and cognitive. At present, mainly the botanists and ornithologists visit this natural reserve. There are certain groups of animals and plants, which species and special coverage has not been studies, thus presenting a great scientific interest.

Markakol

Markakol natural reserve is in Kurchum district East-Kazakhstani region, it was founded to preserve the unique lake Markakol and its surrounding landscape. Modern reserve area makes up 75,048 ha, its major part (46,045 ha) is in the lakescape of Markakol. The lake Markakol is at the height of 1,447 m above sea level. You can see an amazing view to the mountain chain Sarymsakty with snowy peaks Berkutaul and Aksubas, from the northern side. The lake is known for its clean water and lots of uskuch – the local type of Siberian lenoks and umbra. This type of fish is the endemics, and they live here only. The best fisherman catch is late autumn and early winter. The pride of the natural reserve Markakol is not only the lake, but also the taiga forests, clean mountain rivers, gleaming sources. Plant and animal world here is rich and diverse. Subalpine meadows are rich with different plants rare medical plants (golden and carthamoid rhapontic, bergenia and other) Flora of the natural reserve Markakol includes around 900 sorts of plants. Those included in the Red Book of Kazakhstan, include such plants as the Siberian dog’s tooth, Altai rhubarb, sweet astragal, fir clubmoss, tulip, steppe peon, Altai gymnospermous. Animal world of Markakol reserve is also interesting and rich, it includes around 55 types of mammals, among which are the brown bear, wolf, moose, roe, elk, boar, American mink, wolverine, ermine, polecat, weasel, badger, otter, sable, Siberian weasel, Alpine weasel, from the Red Book, there is only the snow leopard. Local village Urunkhanka can be proud of its developed touristic infrastructure. Especially for the guests, they built here timber blockhouses, guest houses and yurtas. Local people are interesting as well, they are the descendants of Estonian immigrants. Local sights include also the Marble passage, Zaisan hollow, beehive with sweet Altai honey. As the whole area of Markakol natural reserve, they are protected as the key areal of GEF, UNDP, WWF, NABU and GTZ international programs on preserving the Altai Sayansk biodiversified ecological region.

Karatau

The natural reserve Karatau is the youngest natural reserve in the country. However, its background is long and complex, it is almost 30 years old. State natural reserve Karatau is in the center of Karatau chain that is the branch of Northwestern Tien Shan arches in South-Kazakhstani region. Natural reserve area makes up 34,300 ha. The higher plants flora in the natural reserve, according to available data today, includes 360 species. It is of the highest level of originality, presenting the unique conglomerate of new and ancient endemic species, races and forms. At least, one fourth of the total number of species refer to the rare category (96 species). Animal world of the preserved zone, as of the chain Karatau as a whole, for the last century, has changed significantly. In this period, Tien Shan brown bear and snow leopard were eliminated here, and many commercial species (boar, roe, wild sheep, tolai hare and other) have become extremely rare.

Kurgaldzhin

Kurgaldzhin natural reserve on the lake Kurgaldzhin in the flow of Nura river, in Akmola region of Kazakhstan. It was based in 1968, the area is more than 237 thsd. ha, where 199.2 thsd. ha includes water reservoirs. One should note that Kurgaldzhin is listed as the part of world’s natural heritage by UNESCO classification. Its area is the huge water surface, interspersing with reed and cattail thicket, channels, lakes. Occasionally, reed thickets change with virgin steppes of scant vegetation. Water in the lake Kurgaldzhin is fresh. Climate is extremely continental, in summer, it is the parching heat, air temperature reaches 40°С, in winter it is frosty (down to –40 °С). Aquatic vegetation includes reed, cattail, common bulrush, bladderwort, bur reed. In steppe, there are sagebrush, black sagebrush, sage, astragal prevailing, in spring, it is lots of poppies and tulips. There are 36 types of mammals and around 250 types of birds registered in the natural reserve. The marmots, white hares live in steppe, one can encounter huge herds of saigas, many cranes (grey and demoiselle crane), buzzard, ptarmigan. In water reservoirs, there is nesting of ducks (bald-coot and mallard duck), mute swans, pelicans, teals (European teals and garganey), pintail, gulls, sandpiper, herons. Pink flamingo nests on Tengiz, their number reaches 6,000 units.

Naurzum

State natural reserve Naurzum is one of the oldest natural reserve in Kazakhstan, it was founded in 1931. Its modern area makes up 191.4 thsd. ha. As an administrative unit, the natural reserve in Naurzum and Auliyekol districts of Kostanai region. In 2002, the Government of Kazakhstan presented the natural reserve Naurzum for inclusion in the UNESCO List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage as the Steppes and Lakes of South Kazakhstan. Naurzum natural reserve fascinates with its fairy-tale beauty of pine woods, and the virgin steppe in spring that is covered with blooming flower carpet, with magnificent Shrenk tulips appearing in May. Emblem of Naurzum natural reserve is a mute swan. Most graceful animals of the reserve – the roes - decorate the Naurzum wood. Unfortunately, until now, their number is still low. Moose in the reserve was first encountered in 1974, and until autumn, the animals fed next to fringes. Since then, every summer, the moose live in the natural reserve, and leave for the winter. Naurzum peculiarity is that it is like a natural museum, the museum of geographical contrasts. The nature museum was opened in the natural reserve. Annually, it is visited by 700 people, mainly, the students of Kostanai region. One of first priority goals of the natural reserve is joining of truly steppe parts. It would help to preserve endangered populations of the unique steppe animals and plants of the region.

Ustyurt

Ustyurt natural reserve is on the West of Kazakhstan, in one of the most remarkable areas to the west of Central Asia – the Ustyurt plateau. Total area of the natural reserve is 223,300 ha. The natural reserve Ustyurt was founded on July 12, 1984 to preserve northern deserts, and rare species of flora and fauna. There are many rare animals in the natural reserve, such as: Ustyurt moufflon, cheetah, saiga, goitered gazelle, jackal, fox, Brandt's hedgehog, marbled polecat and other. About 20-25 years ago, the goitered gazelle population was huge, but unfortunately, most part of these rare and noble animals dies out. In spring-summer, the steppe is charming with its wide open space, among the odors of various grasses, there is the smell of mugwort, that is the raw material for arglabin medicine. Ustyurt sights are the archeological monuments. In ancient times, the old caravan tracks passed through the plateau, such as the khoresmshah road that connected Khiva with lower reach of Emba and Volga. Silk Way passed through the ancient city Shakhr&Vazir, caravansaray Balauli and the fort Allan. Ancient cemeteries cover the plateau with magnificent mausoleum mazars, most of which have become the pilgrimage centers. The part was studied by the archeologists, but many of them still wait for research. There are even more ancient monuments. It is known that there are around 60 neolithic posts on Ustyurt.