Protecting the steppe and saiga antelope in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is home to some of the most under-protected biomes globally and an extremely diverse collection of landscapes for one country. However, as the ninth largest country in the world, this is perhaps unsurprising. The habitats shift from forest in the north to steppe, semi-desert, and desert further south, forming the rangelands of the saiga antelope which make the most impressive migratory journeys in the Northern Hemisphere.

To the west is the Ustyurt plateau, where Persian leopards can be sighted, and the Caspian Sea, with its mudflats providing ideal feeding and resting places for very large numbers of waterbirds and waders, while its craggy cliffs support a high density of raptors.

In the east is the Altai taiga forest and to the south, the elusive snow leopard roams the high peaks of the Tien-Shan mountains. Kazakhstan sits in the center of the Central Asia Flyway, providing critical wetland stopover sites used by more than 300 bird species, many threatened with extinction.

Our focus areas in Kazakhstan

  • Intensive and regular monitoring of key species and habitats throughout the year
  • Conducting high-quality research, including saiga telemetry, to understand species needs and threats
  • Locating, mapping, and justifying the designation of the most suitable land conservation regimes 
  • Equipping and strengthening the capacity of rangers
  • Running workshops and environmental education programs
  • Addressing illegal wildlife trade
  • Supporting the restoration of the historic assemblage of species like saiga antelope, Asiatic wild ass (kulan) and Przewalski’s horse

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Kazakhstan is home to some of the most under-protected biomes globally and an extremely diverse collection of landscapes that shift from forest in the north to steppe, semi-desert, and desert further south. © Daniel Rosengren
Most of Eurasia’s few remaining, natural steppe landscapes are located in Kazakhstan. That is why we have partnered with the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK) in connection with the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative (ADCI) to protect these unique grasslands and the species within. © Daniel Rosengren
Kazakhstan sits in the center of the Central Asia Flyway, providing critical wetland stopover sites used by more than 300 bird species, many threatened with extinction. © Daniel Rosengren
Herbivores such as kulan contribute to a healthy ecosystem by grazing the grasses and herbs, keeping them short and thus creating breeding grounds for many rare bird species. © Daniel Rosengren
Greater flamingos in the Korgalzhyn area, Kazakhstan
Mudflats provide ideal feeding and resting places for very large numbers of waterbirds and waders such as these Greater Flamingos. © Daniel Rosengren
FZS and the UK's Royal Veterinary College identified the culprit behind the 2015 saiga mass death: irregularly warm weather made a bacteria more dangerous and triggered fatal blood poisoning. © Daniel Rosengren
Several steppe species are threatened by extinction, the most well-known is the critically endangered saiga antelope. Unsustainable hunting and poaching have pushed saiga numbers to a critical low. As of 2021, the population has increased to nearly a million animals. © Daniel Rosengren
Combating poaching, addressing illegal wildlife trade, and mitigating human impact are some of the conservation measures FZS and partners take to conserve the diverse species range of the steppe. © Daniel Rosengren
Our ecosystem monitoring work has played a central role in securing more space for wildlife in Kazakhstan. Since we began this work, 4 million hectares of steppe and semi-desert habitat have been protected formally by the government of Kazakhstan. © Daniel Rosengren
An escarpment in the Irgiz-Turgai reserve, Kazakhstan
The Irgiz Turgai Reserve is crucially important for the migration and reproduction of saigas. This protected area was expanded not too long ago thanks to data collected through satellite-capable collars. © Daniel Rosengren
This Bluethroat is one of many bird species that migrate across the Kazakh steppe. © Daniel Rosengren
Saiga antelope in Kazakhstan make the most impressive migratory journeys in the Northern Hemisphere. FZS and partners work to map, fund, and strengthen the efficiency of areas to conserve biodiversity here and ensure a contiguous landscape for saiga migration. © Daniel Rosengren

Project updates

Our project in Kazakhstan

Milestones

Results from a survey by the Government of Kazakhstan show that saiga antelope populations have bounced back, now at nearly a million animals.

2021

The first cohort of nine kulan were reintroduced into Central Kazakhstan and Kazakhstan’s saiga population bounces back to over 300,000 individuals after the mass die-off.

2019

Betpak Dala saiga antelope mass die-off of more than 200,000 individuals ~88% of the national population and ACBK becomes a full partner in the BirdLife International NGO network.

2015

Almost 2.5 million hectares of the new protected area was established in our target region including the first ecological corridor in Central Asia: the Yrgyz-Torgai-Zhylanshyk Ecological Corridor ~2 million ha

2014-2016

Kazakhstan’s saiga population reached a size of more than 250,000

2014

ACBK leased two hunting areas that were particularly important in terms of saiga calving and migration (340,000ha)

2009

Over 1.5 million hectares of new protected area was established in our target region

2007-2012

The Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative was co-founded by FZS

2006

Our Kazakh partner, the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK) was established

2004

Global saiga population declines more than 90% through heavy poaching for sale of horns and consumption of meat

1994-2005

The collapse of the Soviet Union brought the collapse of strict hunting control system for saiga and rural poverty

1991

Contact

Zoologische Gesellschaft Frankfurt von 1858 e.V.
Bernhard-Grzimek-Allee 1
60316 Frankfurt

Telephone: +49 (0)69 - 94 34 46 0
Fax: +49 (0)69 - 43 93 48
E-Mail

You will find our office in the Zoogesellschaftshaus (4th floor).
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