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Discovery Kazakhstan #1

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Text by Vitaliy Shuptar

Kazakhstan’s natural environment enjoys state protection of a variety of kinds. The commonest form is status either as a nature reserve or as a national park, but there are other categories, including nature park, arboreal park, reserved area and game reserve. Here I shall describe a few nature reserves and say a few more words about the national parks.
Nature reserves, of which there are ten in the Republic, are territories enjoying the highest level of protection. This status is conferred to protect unique environments inhabited by rare and endangered species of flora and fauna.
Aksu-Zhabagly is the oldest reserve in Kazakhstan, established originally in 1926 and now possessing UNESCO biosphere reserve status. Situated in South Kazakhstan oblast, the reserve covers an area of 85,700 hectares, home to such rare and endangered species as Tien Shan brown bear, snow leopard, argali and several types of falcon and eagle. Maidenhair fern, Greig’s tulip, water-lily tulip, Juno coerulea and other rare species grow there.
Alakol nature reserve, covering an area of 17,400 hectares, is situated in Almaty and East Kazakhstan oblasts. The emphasis here is on the protection of certain birds and fish, including, in Lake Alalkol, a thriving population of Balkhash perch, an otherwise rare fish endemic to Kazakhstan. Another notable inhabitant of Alakol is the extremely rare relic gull (Larus relictus).
Almaty nature reserve, in the Zailyiiskii Alatau mountains of Almaty oblast, covers an area of 71,700 hectares. Rare and endangered fauna to be found here include ibisbill, golden eagle, lammergeyer, Turkestani lynx, snow leopard and Alpine ibex. Edelweiss grow here.
Barsakelmes nature reserve occupies 30,000 hectares on Barsakelmes Island in the Aral Sea. It was established to protect and support the koulan, an endangered equine species. Saiga and goitered gazelle share the reserve with the koulan. The rare shrub black saxaul grows here.
Karatau nature reserve, covering 34,300 hectares of South Kazakhstan oblast, was established to protect and foster local flora and fauna including the Karatau argali and the Sogdian ash. The re-introduction of brown bear, koulan and snow leopard, all of which used to inhabit this area, is planned.
Korgalzhyn nature reserve, occupying 258,900 hectares, most of it covered by water, was established on the territory of Akmola and Karaganda oblasts to protect rare and endangered marshland and swimming birds. Fauna found here include kovylok, spoon-bill, glossy ibis, black stork, whooper swan, red-breasted goose and houbara bustard; among the flora are Schrenk’s tulip, blue onion, Ural liquorice, marshmallow and Levant wormseed. The reserve is home to the northernmost population of pink flamingo.
Markakol nature reserve occupies 75,000 hectares in Kurchum district of East Kazakhstan oblast. Fish species of the
salmon family endemic to its unique mountain lake include lenok, grayling and salmon trout. Brown bear, sable, erne, golden eagle and Altai snowcock live in its forests. Important plant species here include maral root, anomalous peony, steppe peony and pink rhodiola.
Naurzum nature reserve, occupying 87,600 hectares in Kostanai oblast was set up to protect the unique coniferous forest there. Rare and endangered fauna here include saker falcon, golden eagle, demoiselle crane, grey crane, swan, and imperial eagle; important flora include Kirgiz birch and Shrenk’s tulip.
Ustyurt nature reserve, spread over 223,300 hectares in Mangystau oblast, protects, among others, the Afghan red sheep and the saiga.
West Altai nature reserve, with an area of 56,000 hectares, is in East Kazakhstan oblast. Important fauna and flora here include golden eagle, peregrine falcon, saker falcon, black stork, sable, salmon-trout, pink rhodiola and Siberian adder’s-tongue,.
The function of the national parks is to protect, restore and exploit natural and historic objects of special ecological, scientific and recreational significance - they protect unique natural environments that serve also as tourist resorts. Restrictions in national parks are less exacting than those in nature reserves, with the exception of certain areas within them where nature reserve regulations apply. The national parks are generally easy of access, although sometimes there is an entrance fee. Economic activity is forbidden in national parks, although hunting is in some cases permitted if a hunting licence, which can be expensive, has been obtained.
The nine main national parks in Kazakhstan are at Ile-Alatau, Charyn, Kolsai-Koldere and Altyn-Emel in Almaty oblast; Bayanaul in Pavlodar Oblast; Kokshetau in Akmola and North Kazakhstan oblasts; Karkaraly in Karaganda oblast; Katon-Karagai in East Kazakhstan oblast; and Sairam-Ugam in South Kazakhstan oblast.


Discovery Kazakhstan
Travel guide#1/2008

Discovery Kyrgyzstan Travel guide #10/2008


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