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Reserves and National parks

Kazakhstan has 10 nature reserves and 10 national parks, all of which charge entry fees and are partly open to tourism. Nature reserves (zapovedniki) are large protected areas, mainly designated as closed reserves that can only he entered with permission and are under constant scientific observation. Use for commercial purposes is forbidden.

Kazakhstan's nature reserves are:

Naurzum: Dry wormwood-, salt- and pasture steppe with scattered, ancient fir-tree vegetation in the north of the Torgay Depression, with numerous fresh- and saltwater lakes.

Korgalzhin Lakes and Tengiz: A salt steppe landscape to the southwest of Astana, with large salt lakes and dense reed vegetation, a rich variety of waterfowl, birds of prey, wading birds and salt steppe plants.

West Altai: A forest-covered, medium-high mountain range on the Russian border with a dark and black coniferous forest taiga.
Barsakelmes: A partially reed-covered peninsula, formerly an island, in the Aral Sea with typical salt desert vegetation and a population of kulan, saiga and dzheyran.

Ustyurt: A vast, untouched desert plateau east of the Caspian Sea, stretching into the Turan Lowland. Special protection is granted to the endemic Ustyurt moufflon, as well as saiga, dzheyran and reportedly some cheetah.

Aksu-Zhabagly: High mountain landscape with juniper forests between Shymkent and Taraz, together with the adjacent Karatau range; one of the areas with the largest biodiversity.

Karatau: Kazakhstan's newest nature reserve, two undisturbed valleys in the northern Karatau mountains, with a relatively large population of argali and many endemic plants.

Almaty Reserve: Varied landscapes of low steppe foothills reaching to the high mountain slopes of Zailiyskiy Alatau; significant biodiversity.

Markakol: An almost untouched, large mountain lake situated in the far eastern tip of Kazakhstan, surrounded by fir, spruce and larch forests; great wealth in plant, bird and mammal life.

Alakol: A chain of lakes not far from the Chinese border, consisting of two large salt lakes and a reed-covered moist biotope in the Tentek delta on the freshwater lake Sasykkol.

The plan is to combine nature protection with limited human use in Kazakhstan's state national parks, entry fees being used for conservation purposes. Kazakhstan's state national parks are:

Kokshetau: A moderate forest-covered mountain "island" with many lakes in the steppe between Astana and Kokshetau, best known for its health resort of Burabay (Borovoye).

Borovoye (Burabay): The area of Borovoye, rich in forests and lakes, lies between Kokshetau and Astana, but is already overrun with tourists. It is expected that efforts will be made to reduce the damage to the sensitive ecosystem, caused by visitors seeking relaxation.

Bayanaul: An area between Pavlodar and Karaganda; as with Kokshetau Park, it is an azonal (not divided into zones) region of fir and birch forests on the granite massif in the dry steppe, requiring careful preservation.

Karkaraly: The forested steppe hills between Karaganda and Pavlodar are popular tourist areas, but are to be protected from overuse by a reduction in construction, and limited touring and sanatorium stays.

Altyn Emel: Steppe and semi-desert area with rich wildlife, wandering dunes, Scythian barrows/tumuli and rock carvings, located on the north bank of the Kapshagay Reservoir and bordered to the north by the Altyn Emel highlands. Established for the protection of kulan, dzheyran and arkhar. A project to reintroduce Przewalski's horse is under way.

Ili-Alatau: The most northerly chain of the Tien Shan, between the southern outskirts of Almaty and the border with Kyrgyzstan. In this region more than any other, the compatibility between enjoyment of nature through leisure activities and careful protection of the environment has to be proven. The growing mobility of Almaty's population and plans for the establishment of a bigger ski area give rise to increasing doubts about the achievement of this aim. Here, as in the Altyn Emel National Park, limited, strictly controlled hunting is permitted.

Sayram-Ugam: In the extreme south of Kazakhstan, among the most westerly foothills of the Tien Shan on the Ugamsk ridge, mountain steppe sporting a large number of species, juniper woods and alpine meadows is under protection. Here pressure on use will increase as the beautiful countryside increasingly attracts tourists.

Sharyn (Charyn): The beautiful canyon on the eponymous river was recently put under protection in order to regulate the increase in tourism.

Kolsay Lakes: The growing mobility of city dwellers is leading to a flood of tourists into remote and previously undisturbed areas. The Kolsay Lakes are particularly affected, so they were put under protection in 2007.

Katon-Karagay: Alluvial forests and mixed woodlands, mountain taiga and high mountain tundra, with a large number of species, lying between the borders with Russia and China and the northern slopes of the Sarymsakty and Tarbagatay ridges, are protected from overuse by tourism and the local population.