Flourishing wildlife in Kazakh national parks

Recent camera-trap videos from remote parts of Kazakhstan show that in some parts of the country – despite the depradations of illegal hunters in the past – wildlife is flourishing. Check out this video of Siberian Ibex, captured recently in the Altyn Emel National Park:

Siberian Ibex in Altyn Emel National Park in Eastern Kazakhstan

Or this remarkable piece of film showing a large herd of saiga antelopes crossing a river in Western Kazakhstan:

Saiga antelope crossing a river in Western Kazakhstan

The saiga is included on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), where it has been listed as a critically endangered species since 2002. It has been hunted illegally in the country and a couple of years ago thousands of the animals died from a respiratory disease, but the population is now growing.

According to the Kazakh Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity, there are three populations of species in the country: at Betpakdaly in Central Kazakhstan, at Ustyurt in Mangystau, and at Aktobe and Uralsk population in Western Kazakhstan.

“The population of saiga is 1,318,000 individuals by now, which is 56 percent higher than in 2021, when there were 842,000 saigas. This year, there are 801,000 Uralsk saigas, 28,000 Ustyurt saigas and 489,000 Betpakdaly saigas,” eco-activist Saken Dildakhmet wrote in late May. 

It is believe that almost 90 percent of the world’s saiga population lives in Kazakhstan, with the remainder in Mongolia and Kalmykia.

The rare Himalayan Brown Bear, listed in Kazakhstan’s Red Book of endangered species has also been sighted recently at Altyn Emel:

Himalayan Brown Bear seen recently in Altyn Emel National Park

I was lucky enough to see both Siberian Ibex and a bear during a visit to the Djungar Alatau Mountains in July 2019. Two other large mammals, lynx and snow leopard, also inhabit these mountains. Lynx are seen regularly, as this recent footage from Altyn Emel shows:

A lynx family group of mother and three one-year-old cubs filmed recently at Altyn Emel

Snow leopards are very hard to see in the wild, but have been caught regularly on camera traps. These were filmed in July last year in the Altai Mountains in north-east Kazakhstan:

Snow leopards filmed in north-east Kazakhstan

“Photographic evidence of the presence of the snow leopard in East Kazakhstan is great news. The last traces of the snow leopard’s presence in the Kazakh part of the Altai Mountains were obtained in the winter of 2017 near the Russian-Kazakh border. These were the footprints of a female with a cub. Then there were no tracks of a snow leopard until 2021,” said Alexander Karnaukhov, senior project coordinator for the WWF in the Altay-Sayan ecoregion.

Kolsay Lakes National Park in the Almaty Region also reported photographic evidence of three snow leopards on its territory in July last year. This national park is reported to be home to at least 16 snow leopards. The snow leopard is protected in Kazakhstan, where there are thought to be approximately 120-130 animals, out of a global population of around 7,000. 

The WWF project, backed by Kazakh environmental organisations, for the conservation of the snow leopard in East Kazakhstan began in 2015. East Kazakhstan is a place of migration for snow leopards and other rare animal species from Central Asia to the Altai mountains and vice versa. The snow leopard has become a symbol of the Altai and Sayan mountains at the junction of Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China.

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