The Badai-Tugai Zapovednik (Nature Reserve) is located on the right bank of the Amudarya River in the southwestern part of Karakalpakstan some 85 km south of the Takhiatash dam and 130km north of the Tuyamuyun dam. The reserve is 17.5 km length, and its width varies from 1.5 to 2 km. Tugai forests make up 70% of its 6462 hactares.
It was created in 1971 with the purpose of conservation of the typical intra-zonal tugai ecosystems that were being lost due to the regulated drainage of the Amu-Darya river.
In the past, tugai covered approximately 70% of the territory in the Amudarya's lower reaches, but due to regulation of the Amudarya flow and agricultural development of floodplains they now have nearly completely disappeared.
The tugai (riparian) ecosystem at the time of the establishment of the preserve contained 167 varieties of higher plants, 91 species of birdlife, 15 species of mammals and 15 species of fish.
Today the Badai-Tugai reserve is home to a number of species jackals, karakal desert cats, foxes, hare, wild boar, karakal sheep, bald badgers, porcupines and pheasants and reintroduced Bukharan deer (breeding area) and also the home of some rare birds : Egyptian vultures, Griffons, and white-headed hawks.
Tugai is actually a complex ecosystem composed of a number of adjacent related habitats growing away from the water line: shoreline communities giving way to reed beds, then gallery forests, then fringe shrubs, sedges and finally desert.
In the past poplars and willows dominated the dense forests, while tamarisk and elaeagnus filled the shrub thickets. This dense vegetative cover used to provide habitats for a rich spectrum of wildlife: birds, waterfowl, large and small mammals, amphibians and in the spring and summer and huge quantities of mosquitoes.
Over the past 50 years the whole environment of the delta has changed beyond recognition. The former flood plain of the river has been intensively developed for irrigated agriculture, with the water table significantly lowered, and the seasonal floods artificially controlled. Now the water supply for the forest comes mainly from ground water, partly fed by the amu darya river and partly fed from the nearby irrigation districts.
Saving the Bukhara Deer
In late 1990’s their overall number was estimated to be as little as 300-350 in Uzbekistan and the Bukhara deer was on the verge of disapearing. It was included in the World Red Book and Red Book of Uzbekistan and several other Central Asian republics. Today there are around 300 deer in Badai-Tugai reserve. The total number of Bukhara deer in Uzbekistan alone is now over 1000.
The Badai Tugai Nature Reserve however is overpopulated, and has been subject to poaching. Downstream new sites of riparian forests are being developed for translocations, by a joint Karakalpakstan Government and UNDP [United Nations Development Program] / GEF (Global Environment Fund) project.
If sucessfully rehabilitated these areas of Tugai forest will offer a critical new habitat for the Bukharan deer.
To find out more about these new protected areas see the UNDP website for the Conservation of "Tugai Forest" and Strengthening Protected Areas System in Uzbekistan's Amu Darya Delta of Karakalpakstan.