Uzbekistan has two major national parks, both of which are legally protected biospheres with a wealth of indigenous wildlife and glorious, untouched landscapes.
The Ugam-Chatkal National Park is situated close to Tashkent and lies on the spurs of the Western Tian Shan Mountains. Contained within its 570km2 of territory are mountain steppe and forest, alpine meadow, river valleys and floodplains. The park was founded in 1947 and designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1978.
Ugam-Chatkal supports more than 1,100 species of plant including grasses, wild fruit trees and juniper forests. They provide food for 230 species of birds, of which wild turkeys and mountain partridges are particularly numerous. The rarer golden eagles and bearded vultures soar periodically overhead.
The park also has 44 species of mammal. Patient visitors (preferably armed with binoculars) can expect to see wild rams, mountain goats and Siberian roe; wild boar, stone marten and red marmots are also present in large numbers. White-claw bears and wolves are found in the Pskem Valley, and there are Turkestan lynx and even snow leopards in the river basins.
The oldest nature reserve in Uzbekistan is the Zaamin National Park, created in 1926 as the Guralsh Nature Preserve. It encompasses 156km2 of rolling hills and mountains in the Kulsoy, Guralsh, Baikungur and Aldashmansoy river valleys near Dzhizak.
The park was created to preserve unique mountain-pines ecosystems. The main asset of the reserve is the archa (also known as the Central Asian juniper), which reaches 18m in height. Some of the junipers in the reserve are nearly 1,000 years old. In addition to juniper there are rowan, currant, dog rose, barberry, St John's wort and origanum amongst the park's 700+ plant species.
Fauna in the park include 150 species of birds and reptiles and 40 species of mammal, the highlights of which are white-claw bears, lynxes, wild boars and porcupines.