To help preserve the priceless, pristine, virgin, natural resources that it possesses, Kyrgyzstan has a total of 83 Specially Protected Natural Territories, (SPNT), with a total area of about 800,000 hectares, which is 4% of Kyrgyzstan’s total land area. Perhaps, the most famous of these specially protected regions is Ala Archa – just outside Bishkek.
Since declaring Independence in 1991, the country has become a regional leader in conservation issues – ratifying the World Heritage Convention in 1995, the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1996 and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance in 2002.
There are different types of SPNT – 6 “State Reserves” (or zapovedniks), 8 National Parks, and 67 Nature Parks (which are divided into “forest”, “botanical”, “geological”, “multi-use” and “hunting”), and 2 Biosphere Reserves – recognised by UNESCO.
NATIONAL PARKS - One of the main tasks of the National Parks is to organize tourism that is not harmful to nature.
NATURAL PARKS – formed to preserve the natural environment of the area whilst making it available for recreational activities.
RESERVES – These are the most numerous of the Specially Protected Natural Territories. They occupy 289,200 hectares — more than a half of the total area of all the territories. In the reserves only certain, definite types of economic activities are prohibited, or limited.
The reserves function is to preserve, or to restore, some components of the natural environment and they are subdivided into 4 groups: forest, botanical, zoological, and complex.
These regions are completely exempted from economic activity, including fishing, hunting, picking wild plants. One of the essential tasks of the reserves is to educate and enlighten the population about the ecological care within this territory.
The number of parks is increasing as the government plans to put more areas under protection. In 2004, plans were announced for the creation of two new protected zones: Kara Buura in the Talas region and Uzun Akmat in the Toktogul are of Djalal Abad oblast. In addition, the Sandash area has been added to the Besh Aral Reserve. This means that there will be 11 protected reserves in the Republic – the largest number in any Central Asian republic.
This is a list of some of the SPNTs in the Kyrgyz Republic:
Ala-Archa National Park - founded in 1974 to protect the old Ala-Archa River and its environs for the sake of society and future generations. The National Park is just 35 km from the centre of the capital, Bishkek, and extends 15 km along the canyon with altitudes ranging from 1500m to 2240m.
Besh-Aral state reserve was founded in 1979 in the extreme South West corner of the Djalal Abad oblast, (right on the border with Uzbekistan), with the purpose of preserving the unique natural complex and forests of the Chatkal valley, as well as to partially protect the habitat of the Menzbir marmot and to protect the natural habitat of vegetation of Greig and Cauffman tulips.
Besh Tash State Park – in the Talas oblast, 13 km from the city itself, established in 1996 with 32411 hectares stretching some 30 km up the valley of the Besh Tash River.
Chong-Kemin – founded in 1997 in the Chong-Kemin river valley and included almost all the forest farms of the Kemin district. The park’s main task is to preserve the unique landscapes with their diversity of fauna and flora. It contains a hunting and a botanical reserves – and the mausoleum of Shabdan Baatyr.
Issyk-Kul state preserve was the first protected territory in the Kyrgyz Republic, founded in 1948, and now forms part of the larger Biospere Reserve. It was founded with the aim of preserving the habitat of waterfowl which winter in the region around Lake Issyk-Kul. It has an international importance, and occupies some 19,000 hectares.
Issyk Kul Biosphere Reserve - is one of some 338 such reserves around the world, acknowledged by the UNESCO “Man and the Biosphere” programme. The concept of a Biosphere Reserve is of a model region of sustainable land use. To ensure simultaneous conservation of natural resources, environmentally sound and sustainable land use and the improvement of standards of living - the territory of the reserve is divided into four zones: core, buffer, transitional, and ‘rehabilitation’ – each governed by rules about what sort of activities are permitted, (or prohibited). It was also registered in 1976 under the “Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat”.
The territory of Issyk-Kul biosphere reserve occupies 43,100 square km or 22% of the total area of the republic, and a large variety of ecosystems are represented within its boundaries, ranging from deserts to alpine tundra. it is home to several species of flora and fauna that are included in the list of endangered species such as: Marco Polo sheep (Ovis ammon polii) and the Siberian ibex (Capra sibirica) which graze in the mountains, the endemic Tien Shan Brown Bears which can still be found in the forests of Tien Shan Pines; and the endangered Snow leopard (Uncia uncia).
About 435,000 people lived within the biosphere reserve according to 2001 figures. Tourism plays an important economical role. Tourism infrastructure is developed in the north part of the biosphere reserve. New hotels and resorts have been constructed in the recent past – and more are planned – with others being renovated. The agriculture sector is also a significant sector of the economy branch. Kumtor, a major gold mining company, is also working here. There is a need to balance the needs of the local population (and the visitors) with protecting the environment.
The first time sections of the Issyk Kul shoreline were designated as protected was in 1948. However, these were relatively small parts of the landscape. In the 1990s, after Kyrgyzstan became independent, the desire grew for more extensive protection, and after the legal basis was laid, with the entire oblast designated as a biosphere reserve in a presidential decree in 1998. In 2001 work started on creating an administration for the reserve and it was officially recognized by UNESCO. Whislt this is a major distinction for Kyrgyzstan, it also imposes an obligation to make every effort to preserve this unique natural and cultural landscape.
The German agency GTZ has given substantial support to the development of the Biosphere reserve. In addition, numerous small projects were promoted to enable the local population to test economically interesting and ecologically compatible measures.
The officiall Ramsar site notes that the lake is “a unique example of a large brackish lake in a tectonic basin, characteristic for the Tien Shan mountain range”. It is the fifth deepest lake in the world.
Lake Issyk-kul provides a wintering habitat for 20,000 to 50,000 waterfowl. The lake area is of primary importance as a wintering site for wildfowl and for migrating birds. Wintering numbers vary greatly depending on the severity of the winter. The main wintering species are Cygnus cygnus, Aythya ferina and Fulica atra. The main migrant is Anas acuta. There are small nesting colonies of Ciconiidae. The lake is of special value as reproduction area for species of economically important fish such as Stizostedion lucioperca and many other species.
Karakol Natural Park – founded in 1997, with a total area of 38,256 hectares including 4767 hectares of forests.
Kara-Shoro - established in 1996 in the Osh oblast, with 8,450 hectares – most of it pasture land, but containing some 823 hectares of forest. There are no roads in the park itself.
Karatal-Japaryk reserve was founded in 1995 in the forest regions of the northern hills of the Kargo mountains in the Naryn oblast. It consists of three small areas – a forested area and the high mountain lakes of Son Kul and Chatyr Kul - and occupies some 72,000 hectares.
Kulan Ata – established by Presidental decee in 2004 to preserve the biodiversity, rich gene pool of fir and coniferous forest, animal and herbal wildlife, improve bio-resource protection and expansion of the protected natural territories in the republic. It twenty four and a half thousand hectares consists of two detatched areas: Kulan Ata and Tonzoo. The reserve straddles the boundary between broadleaf and coniferous forests – although fir forests mostly prevail, with a predominatly mountainous landscape – but quite diverse. There are about 600 spieces of flora – including about 200 which are only found in Kyrgyzstan – and 200 different herbs. Some 54 of them are listed in the Red Book as being endangered species. The range of fauna is also rich and diversified – but many of the larger species require much greater areas than the reserve will be able to provide and they often cross it’s boundaries where they become targets for hunting.
Kyrgyz Ata Natural Park - founded in 1992, in the Osh oblast, with 1,172 hectares to preserve the local, natural archa forest.
Naryn state reserve was founded in 1983 and coniferous forests, alpine meadows, and other ecosystems are protected by it.
Padasha Ata reserve in the Djalal Abad oblast, is one of the newer reserves.
Saimaluu Tash State Park – was established in 2001 in the Eastern part of Djalal Abad oblast along the Kurart riber. Most famous for the petroglyphs found here it is also important for its biodiversity.
Salkyntor State Park – in the Naryn oblast was established in 2001 and covers some 10448 hectares – and is dedicated to the re-establishment of the Tien Shan Maral (Red Deer), and also serves as a recreational centre for the local population.
Sarychat-Ertash reserve – in the Issyk Kul oblast – contains some 72000 hectares of high altitude mountain habitats.
Sary-Chelek biosphere reserve is located in the western Tien Shan Mountains, on the southern spurs of the Chatkal Range in the west of Kyrgyzstan, occupying some 23868 hectares, at altitudes which range from 1,200 to 4,247 meters above sea level.
It was originally established as a park in 1959 in the Djalal Abad oblast, with the purpose of preserving the forests and mountain landscapes that surround lake Sary-Chelek, and was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1979.
Over 1000 species of plants are represented within its boundaries, including wild varieties of many “ancestors” of commercially important plants, (in particular, many of the fruits found in the forests here have a high economic value). About a third of the protected area remains as forest but there are also meadows, steppes, rocks, screes and some aquatic areas.
Before the creation of the biosphere reserve, selective logging of the forest, grass cutting and cattle grazing were practiced. Today, serious problems arise from recreational activities, unorganized tourism, thoroughfare through the reserve and construction work on the banks of Sary-Chelek Lake.
Due to the protection by the surrounding mountain ranges, winters are relatively mild and rich in snow, and summers are warm and wet.
In 2003 a map showing 16 of the various national parks was published – in English, in Russian and in Kyrgyz.
The websites of the United Nations Environmental Programme (www.unep-wcmc.org) and Unesco (www.unesco.org), contain information – about the two biosphere reserves in the Kyrgyz Republic: Issyk Kul and Sary Chelek and maps showing protected areas in Central Asia.