Work in Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve in Kazakhstan
Submitted by: The Biodiversity Conservation Fund of Kazakhstan
The Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve is now the largest nature reserve in Eastern Europe and the CIS. The total area of the reserve amounts to 543,171 hectares, where about half of the area is occupied by wetlands, and the other half - by pristine prairie ecosystems. The new western steppe area of the Korgalzhyn Reserve is a traditional place of the saiga calving. In the 80’s thousands of females of this species came here every year to breed. Lack of water, mass poaching taking place prior to the inclusion of the site in the Reserve and predators have led to a drastic reduction in the number of the saiga-antelope.
The saiga has been living in Kazakhstan for centuries, and its population reached 2 million individuals. At the beginning of this century, the numbers had reduced to just over 21 thousand heads, and a real risk of the extinction of the antelope species emerged. One of the most effective measures for the conservation of the saiga is the inclusion of valuable steppe ecosystems into the reserve. To ensure the conservation of the saiga population, a set of measures – including biotechnical methods – is required. One of the problematic issues in the steppe zone is the lack of water source points. As is known, the water in Lake Tengiz is salty and unsuitable for drinking. In the past, the saiga and other species of mammals and birds (flamingos, pelicans, etc.), as well as livestock, during summer nomad camps, used to drink fresh water collected in small dams.
A number of dams (about 20) to the west and south of Lake Tengiz were constructed for livestock watering in the 1960's and 1970's, to implement a program of transhumance development in the region. Due to the fact that the dams were constructed of local bulk soil vulnerable to erosion from wave surf and rain, they were periodically repaired (addition of earth, reinforcement) by state farms interested in their integrality. In times of the crisis of the 1990s, due to a sharp decrease in the number of cattle, transhumance in the area was no longer practiced. At present, the existing watering dams have been destroyed and are non-operational.
Studies have shown that it is now necessary to restore at least a part of the dams.
During the construction of watering throughs, the restoration of the old broken dams amid vast saiga rangelands can reduce long-distance migration of the antelope. That search for drinking water obliges the saiga to migrate far beyond the reserve into unprotected areas, where they are susceptible to poaching.
The Corporate Fund “The Biodiversity Conservation Fund of Kazakhstan” is an organization, which aims to provide additional long-term financing of projects focused on the conservation of biological diversity of Kazakhstan by providing grants to non-profit or non-governmental organizations and associations to implement projects for the conservation of biodiversity and a more sustainable nature management.
Funds for this activity are supplied from voluntary contributions from enterprises that use natural resources. Thus, JSC Corporation "Kazakhmys" became one of the first donors to the Fund. Due to the signing of a memorandum of cooperation and the allocation of resources by JSC "Kazakhmys" in 2011, work was done to restore three-watering dams (Terensay, Tobylgysay and Akboken) in the western sector the Korgalzhyn Reserve.
As a result of the recovery of the watering dams, necessary drinking conditions for the antelope and other wild animals are created. The risk of saiga hunting during its migration beyond the boundaries of the reserve in search of drinking water has been reduced.
The measures taken will assist in increasing the number of saiga and waterfowl populations.