Friday, April 2, 2010

Nature Reserves and National Parks in Uzbekistan


Situated in the heart of Central Asia, the Republic of Uzbekistan has a well developed park infrastructure. With  dramatic intersections of river, mountain, and desert ecosystems; it boasts a varied landscape and rich biodiversity. Fauna : Some 40 species of mammals, 430 species of birdlife, 60 species of reptiles and 74 fish species are found in Uzbekistan. Flora: 68 main species of trees, 320 of shrubs, and over 3000 types of  grass are also found in the Republic.

There is a high degree of endemism: in some areas, up to 18-20% of higher flora is represented by species with narrow ranges. Over the past 100 years, species such as Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata) and Near Eastern leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica) have disappeared. Many other species are now listed in the Red Data Book of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) such as the snow leopard (Felis uncia), bukhara deer, MacQueen's bustard and others. Uzbekistan also has populations of lynx (Lynx lynx isabellinus) and several other species of wild cats (Felis caracal, Felis margarita thinobius, Felus chaus oxiana, Felis manul), Tien-Shan bear (Ursos arctos), bustard (Chlamydotis undulata), djeiran (Gasella subgutturosa), various raptors, Bukhara mouflon (Ovis orientalis bocharensis), and endemic species of groundhog, deer, and pheasant. In addition there are an array of monitors, scorpions and venomous snakes, and butterflies.


There are four main categories of protected natural areas in Uzbekistan (see below):

1. State zapovedniks (strict nature reserves);

2. State national parks;

3. State zakazniks (refuges); and

4. State nature monuments.

Nature Reserves (Zapovedniki) in Uzbekistan

Baday-Tugai State Nature Reserve (6462ha) was formed in 1971 in the Republic of Karakalpakstan located on the right bank of the Amudarya River (within the districts of Beruni and Kegelli). The reserve was created with the purpose of saving the tugai woodland and fauna in conditions where the regulated flow of the Amu-Darya river has had a significant impact on the riparian ecosystem. The tugai (riparian) ecosystem of the reserve accommodates more than 91 species of birds, 15 species of mammals and 15 species of fish. It has jackal, steppe cat, fox, and reintroduced Bukharan deer (approx. 350-400 live in the reserve) also some exotic animals such as hyenas, wild sheep, bald badger, porcupine and some rare birds including the Egyptian vulture and white head owl. Tugai forests take up over 70% of its area. 

Chatkal State Nature Reserve (35686ha) was a Zakaznik from 1947-51 and in 1993 became a Biosphere Reserve. Near Tashkent, its alpine subalpine ecosystems accommodate fox, steppe cat, wolf, and the Tien-Shan bear. The rare snow leopard can also be found high in the mountains. It is also the centre of the Ugam-Chatkalsky National Park.

The reserve is located on the spurs of the Chatkal Ridge part of the West Tien Shan Mountains. Divided by gorges, the mountains of the reserve reach over 3.500 m above sea level. The lower slopes are covered with natural juniper forests. There are birch groves (along the river banks), Sea-buckthorn, walnut trees, rowan-trees, stone trees, pistachio-trees, and a large number of other species, which are endemic to the western Tien-Shan. Fauna found in the reserve includes wild mountain goats, bears, wild boars, foxes, marmots. Birdlife includes stone grouse and partridge. The Bashkizylsai area is also located within the reserve notable for its rock paintings and petrogliphs depicting wild animals being hunted by primitive men

Gissar State Nature Reserve (80986 ha) is located in the Kashkadarya region on western spurs of Gissar ridge between 1,750 and 4,349m and was established in 1985 when two independent nature reserves were merged. .It is the synthesis of two earlier Zapovedniki merged in the mid-seventies. The first of these was the Kizilsuyskiy Nature Reserve, founded in 1975 for the protection of one of the best extensive juniper forests in the Western Pamoro-Alay, together with its fauna typical for this part of the Gissar range. The second was the Mirakinskiy Nature Reserve, founded in 1976 for the protection of the upper reaches and source of the Kashkadarya river and the Severtzov glacier (about 3.5 km long).  Of the total area 12203 ha. are covered by forestry, 27450 ha. by meadows, and 171 ha. is made up of lakes. There are 870 species of plants and about 140 species of animals in its alpine and juniper forests contains vast, untouched high alpine habitats that are a refuge for rare species such as the Isabelline Brown Bear, the Eurasian Lynx and the Snow Leopard, whose largest population in Uzbekistan occurs here. The area has breeding Cinereous Vultures and Saker Falcons, while Lesser Kestrels occur in migration.It contains Peak Boboitmas (4349 meters), the Cave of Tamerlane, and the country's largest glacier, Severtsov. It is the largest Zapovednik in Uzbekistan

Geological State Nature Reserve (54000ha) was formed in 1979 as a geologic Zapovednik in the Kashkadayo Region. Its alpine environment accommodates bear and other animals. The scenic rivers Obi-Safit, Khodzh-Kurgan, Zinzilban, Novabak cut deep through the mountains, forming beautiful canyons. The reserve has possibly the most extensive infrastructure in all of Central Asia. In the reserve there is a hotel, offices and labs, conference hall, and a museum.

Kyzylkum State Nature Reserve (10141 ha) was formed in 1971 on a network of Amudarya islands in the Khorezm and Bukhara Regions. It is divided between 6964 hectares of desert sand dunes and 3177 hectares within the Amu-darya's flood plain. The best time to visit the reserve is spring. According to ornithologists there are 190 species of birds within the reserve, including herons, river terns, wild ducks, sandpipers NS turtle-doves. The flood plain in the reserve has a lush flora of poplars, silver oleasters and riverside willows.

The reserve also accommodates a variety of wild cats, wolves, foxes, wild boar, hares and desert monitors. Reintroduced Bukharan deer and reed cats live on the tugai woods and the population of jeyrans (Central Asian gazelle) is being restored.

Part of the Zapovednik's territory is disputed between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It originally consisted of 3985 ha, expanded in 1976 and 1981. Special attention should be paid to the Bukharan Deer the number of which has grown since 1971 from only 20 head up to now over 200.

Nuratau-Kyzylkum Biospheric Reserve embraces the southern part of the Kyzylkum Desert, lakes Aydarkul and Tuzgan and the mountain ridges of Nuratau and Koitash. The territory of the reserve is divided into three zones, each with its peculiar purpose and management: preservation zone, protection zone and a controlled development zone.

It contains two functioning reserves both in the Djizak region. 1. Nurata Reserve (17752ha) which was formed in 1975 on the Nurata Ridge in Farish district. 2. Arnasay Ornithological Reserve (6300ha) on Lake Tuzgan.

The relief of the reserve is typically mountainous (the highest point Khayatbashy is 2100 metres above sea-level) with big and small rivers, gorges, massive rock outcrops. There reserve has forest vegetation along the flood-lands of the rivers. The most wide spread are walnut tree and juniper, but there are also wild apple-trees, plum-trees, mulberry-trees, cherry-plums, almond-trees, pistachio-trees, wild vines, apricot-trees and various sorts of dog-roses. Early in spring the Nurata Mountains slopes are covered with the Korolkov’s tulip, Turkestan tulip, eremurus nuratavsky and other flowers, rare and entered into the Red Book

The Severtsev urial (also known as the Kyzylkum ram) lives only here and is included into the Red Book of Uzbekistan. Besides the rare Severtsov's sheep, wild boars, foxes, wolves, porcupines, badgers. Plenty of stone grouse inhabit the reserve. In addition several 'Birds of prey' including  the golden eagle, dwarf-eagle, bearded vulture and the red book listed black griffon-vulture live in Nurata.

Surkhan State Nature Reserve (27600ha) organised in 1987 it has been through several incarnations since 1960. It is situated located in the the northwestern part of Sherabad district, Surkhandarya province and consists of two independent sections.The reserves are typical of the natural environments of the south of Uzbekistan.

1. The Aral-Paigambar Reserve (3092ha) first organised in 1971 on Aral-Paygambar Island with the purpose of conserving remaining areas of riparian (tugai) forest ecosystem on the Amu Darya. In particular the natural population of the Bactrian deer, which had been included in the IUCN list and the Red Book of the former USSR. Of the total area 964ha is covered by tugai forest with its characteristic fauna. Note the area was once the haunt of the Caspian Tiger which extirpated only forty or so years ago and the Zapovednik currently also accommodates several wild cat species, wolf, fox, jackal, wild boar, the reed cat, the Iranian otter, and others. Birdlife includes Tadjik pheasants, grey geese, Turkestan nightingale and blackbirds.

2. Kugitan Reserve (24583ha) was organised in 1987 and covers both mountain and forest ecosystems.The purpose of conserving the biodiversity of the Kugitang mountains. Some 800 species of plants, about 290 species of birds, and more than 20 species of animals have been detected. Under special protection are the Spiral Horned Goat or Markhur, mountain sheep (Karakul) and other rare species. The reserve also hosts Golden Eagles and Bearded, Cinereous and Griffon Vultures as well as numerous species of songbirds.


Zaamin State Nature Reserve (26847ha) bordering Tajikistan in the Djizak Region, is in the western part of the Turkestan Ridge. Zaamin is the oldest Zapovednik in Uzbekistan and is bordered by Zaaminsky People's Park. It has been through many incarnations since it was founded in 1926.

The sides of the Turkestan Range are covered with juniper forests and higher-with alpine meadows. The highest mountain point is 3500 metres above sea-level. Its alpine areas and juniper forests accommodate wolf, fox, bear, porcupines, badgers and hares.

There are also bears and lynxes in the forest juniper belt. It's subalpine zone is inhabited by wild mountain goats. 

variety of birds in the juniper zone: stone grouse, rose starlings, larks, kestrels, magpies, thrushes and is well endowed with juniper grosbeaks. Birds of prey include the sparrow-hawk, the golden eagle, the white-head griffin, and the bearded vulture. The black stork nests in the Chantanga Gorge. There are over 700 species of plants under protection in the reserve.

Zeravshan State Nature Reserve (2352ha) was formed in 1975 in Samarkand Region. The Reserve consists of a narrow strip stretching along the Zerafshan River (45 km). The objective of reserve is the protection and restoring of tugai ecosystem and in particular saving of sea-buckthorn and a rare subspecies of Zerafshan pheasant, the number of which in 1995 had reached 4000.

National Parks in Uzbekistan

Ugam-Chatkal National Park (574600ha) is situated close to Tashkent and includes the Chatkalsky Zapovednik which was founded in 1947 (designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1978) and lies on the spurs of the Western Tien Shan range. The state nature preserve was established here in 1947, and it was designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1978.

Its mountain steppes and forests, alpine meadows, river valleys and floodplain forests have some 44 species of mammals, 230 species of birds, 1168 species of plants. The slopes of the Pskem ridge are covered with juniper, walnut-trees, wild fruit trees and wild bushes.

In the valley of the river Pskem, from the foothills and up to the alpine zone, there lives the white-claw bear. Wolves are common in the areas surrounding the tributaries of the Maidantal and Oygaing rivers. Other mammals found here are Tien Shan fox, red marmot, stone marten. In the river basins are found Turkestan lynx and snow leopard. Almost everywhere in the reserve are  wild boar in addition badgers are also common. The reserve is also home to Siberian roe and mountain goat. Frequent visitors from the neighbouring territories are Tien Shan wild rams.

Lots of colourful birds are found in the national park. Wild turkeys and mountain partridges are plentiful on its grassy slopes. Higher on the cliffs one can find nests of birds of prey; golden eagles, bearded vultures and eagle vultures.

The Chimgan-Charvak-Beldersay Resort Zone, covering an area 100,000 hectares, has three health-recreation complexes: 'Charvak', 'Chimgan' and 'Beldersay'. Nature activities include many walks and nature trails and rafting along the rapids of the Ugam River. Their is also a Children's Ecological Reserve that has an excellent information and interaction center.

The Zaamin National Park is situated in Jizzakh Province, on the northern slopes of the Turkestan Mountain Range. Its total area comprises 15,600 hectares. The elevations range from 1,700 m (in the Guralash valley) to 3,571 m Guralash Peak). Zaamin National Park (Jizzakh Province) is the oldest nature preserve in Uzbekistan, created in 1926 as Guralash Nature Preserve on the northern slopes of the western part of Turkestan Range, in the valleys of the rivers Kulsoy, Guralash, Baikungur, and Aldashmansoy.

The park was created aimed at preservation, rebuilding and recreational investigation of unique mountain-pines ecosystems. The main asset of the reserve is the "Archa" also known as the Central Asian juniper reaching 18 meters in height. A tree becomes truly mature only after 100-150 years. Some of the junipers in the reserve are nearly 1000 years old. Altogether there are some 700 species of plants in the reserve. In addition to juniper there grows rowan, currant, dog-rose, barberries, St.-John's wort, Origanum and many other useful plants.

The fauna of the reserve is also very diverse. Over 40 species of animals can be found here: white-claw bears, lynxes, wild boars, porcupines, Siberian goats, foxes, wolves, forest dormice, hares. Besides, the reserve is also the habitat of over 150 species of birds and reptiles.

Other Nature Areas

Amankutan Gorge Natural Preserve is located near Urgut, Samarkand Province just 50 km from Samarkand. It has some of the most picturesque views in Central Asia. Rich in delightful wooded mountains and cascading waterfalls, the Gorge is a home to a great diversity of flowering plants, animals and birds.

"Tulipa fosteriana" a direct ancestor of a huge variety of the modern garden tulips can be still found here, as well as clary – a very effective medicinal herb. The legendary Blue Whistling-thrush (Myophonus caeruleus Scopoli) inhabits the canyons. In 1947, an expedition lead by D.N. Lev discovered a Neanderthal site in the Amankutan Gorge. From time immemorial through Amankutan there lay the shortest path from Bactria to Sogdiana. Centuries ago that path was used by the armies of Alexander the Great, Genghiz Khan and the Arabs.

Djeyran Ecological Centre is located 40 km from Bukhara.Only recently the reserve was expanded by four times its original size to a total area of 200 square kilometres. The centre is home to the rare jeyran (Central Asian gazelle. Goitered gazelle) which is included in the Red Book of Endangered Species). The Jeyran ecological centre was founded about 1985 and is the only one of its kind in Central Asia. At the start 42 jeyrans were brought into the centre, today 700 of these unique animals live there in a fenced area of 5000 hectares. Besides jeyrans, Prezhevalskiy horses (now extinct in the wild) and koulans are bred in the reserve.

It also serves as a breeding ground for endangered species such as Houbara Bustard, Ferruginous Duck and Marbled Teal, the reserve is also an important stop-over for migratory species, including Dalmatian Pelican, White-headed Duck, Cinereous Vulture, Imperial Eagle, Little Bustard, Corn Crake and the Great Snipe.