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Sunday, 21 January 2007
The Real Beauty of Turkmen mountains
Topic: Environment & ecology
Golden eagle is a real beauty of the Turkmen mountains and deserts. These eagles stately hover over the expanses of the Karakum Desert, riparian forests of the Amudarya and the Kopetdag and Koytendag Mountains. They can be seen also in the shore of the Caspian Sea.

The bird can easily be referred to large feathered birds. Its look symbolises power and strength: in length golden eagle is almost a metre, its weight is about 7-9 kg, and its wingspan is 2 metres. What is notable is that female birds are larger than male ones. Its claws are larger than those of other eagles. On its back golden eagle has dark brown feathering and on its belly red-brown. A quite big “hat” on its head formed of lengthy golden-yellow feathers make it different from other eagles.

Golden eagle does not like long flights. It tries to stay close to its nest. The birds prefer to nest in the mountains, rarely in the desert. Thus, in south-west Kopetdag golden eagles appeared in different biotopes: foothills, central part of the Sumbar-Chendyrsk zone. However, the predators prefer rocky ledges in gorges and middle belt of the mountains located 10-20 m over the land surface and higher for nesting. During this period, in the Kopetdag Mountains birds keep to the nesting place at the tops of the mountains 2,000 metres higher than the sea level. During cold time and non-breeding season, the birds migrate in their search of best settling areas.

Golden eagle is the most energetic and powerful predator, therefore it hunts average-size mammals. However, despite belief, it is beyond its power to take away a sheep – it is too small for this.

Golden eagle hunts in pairs. Their families have strong ties – male and female birds live together for years. Golden eagle is one of the earliest nesting birds. They start nesting in February or beginning of March and sometimes in January. The birds are tied to their old nests and try to stay on forever. Nests (usually a family might have up to four nests) are placed amidst cliffs, ruins, in haloxylon woods, trees and power transmission facilities. These huge constructions are made of heavy trunks of trees, their diameter is up to 1.5 metres and height is 0.5 metres. Inside such “birds’ house” can be covered with camel wool and reinforced with clay. In this or that nest they lay one (if birds are young), or two-three eggs. Brooding lasts about one month, and during additional 2-2.5 months, parents feed their nestlings.

Golden eagle comes of age at the age of two; however, only at its fourth or sixth year of life it forms a family. During draught, when the number of mammals is quite small, golden eagle does not nest.

Science and life proved that predators are an important link in wildlife. They hunt primarily sick and weak animals, support number of rodents at necessary ecosystem level. Golden eagle is inscribed in the Red Data Book of Turkmenistan and other countries of the world.


Posted by countryturkmenistan at 6:16 PM
The Turkmen Leopard
Topic: Environment & ecology

 Leopard is a decoration of Turkmen nature. Nowadays, in Turkmenistan the habitat of leopards is limited to the Kopetdag Mountains and Badkhyz. In the southwestern Kopetdag, the basins of the rivers Sumbar and Chandyr leopards inhabit the upper reaches of the large gorges grown with cloistered forests, with the scatterings of stones and precipices. Their traces can be often seen in the places with the good field of view (ridges and their crests), on the floor and in the upper terraces of gorges. Mostly, leopards keep to the places inhabited with ungulates.

The leopard is a big cat, often 130-180 cm long, and weights up to 70 kg. It has a lissome, slim body with a long tail (95-116 cm) and a relatively small round head. Its ears are short, widely placed and round on the top. The body is strong and brawny with the strong forepaws. The fur is short and closely fitting. Their pelage tends to vary from grey and ochre to bright reddish and foxy in colour with black and brown spots. The pelage on the belly and backside of extremities is almost white.

Leopards lead a solitary way of life almost all year round, and the animals mate only during the period of reproduction. Leopards can have cubs at the age of 2-3. A female, as usual, gives birth to a litter of 2-3 cubs in spring. Cubs may remain with their mother for 12-15 months.

Adults are more active at night, mainly. They take advantage of the compound relief and are famous for their ability to go undetected, avoiding meetings with people. Though leopards move along the foot and horse paths, and sometimes their routes are laid nearby the settlements, they are difficult to notice. Females with cubs are especially careful, usually they move along the steep slopes. An adult female makes a den in the place most difficult of access and rarely visited by people and uses it over many years. Young leopards, which have just started their adult life, are less careful. While examining their section of the natural habitat they can be seen at any time of day and appear near the settlements, field sites during daytime.

Leopards hunt wild ungulates – argali, pasans, rarely wild boars, gazelles and porcupines. From time to time they hunt foxes, jackals, wolves, badgers and wall-creepers.

Persian leopard is inscribed on the Red Data Book of Turkmenistan and the World Conservation Union and under the protection of the state. To hunt this rare predator has been prohibited since 1969. Leopards are protected in the Badkhyz, the Kopetdag and the Syunt-Khasardag National Reserve.

Mainly, leopards hunt sick or weak animals which are little adapted to the severe conditions of the arid mountains, unable to give a strong posterity. Science proved that predators are of critical importance for nature performing the role of “sanitarians”. Thus, undoubtedly, leopards, beautiful and noble predators, should adorn Turkmen nature in future.


Posted by countryturkmenistan at 6:13 PM
Updated: Sunday, 21 January 2007 6:23 PM
Monday, 4 December 2006
Nature Reserves of Turkmenistan
Topic: Environment & ecology

The Amudarya nature reserve  includes the ecosystems of tugai forests in the Amudarya River valley and adjoining desert areas. This nature reserve provides habitats for 48 species and subspecies of mammals, and 203 species and subspecies of birds. Here 1,040 species of higher plants grow. Among vertebrate animals there are rare species, such as the Central Asian gazelle, Bukhara deer, ratel, otter, marble teal, osprey and others. Among fish species, there are greater and lesser Amudarya false shovelnose sturgeons, and pike chub. The Amudarya nature reserve manages the Kelif natural preserve that incorporates lake ecosystems in South-East Turkmenistan and is a favorable place for the wintering of migratory and aquatic birds.

The Badkhyz nature reserve , and the Badkhyz region proper, include ecosystems of hilly plateaus at the piedmont of the Paropamiz, the northernmost range of the Hindukush. The territory of the nature reserve supports 40 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, 34 species of reptiles. Among them are the Central Asian gazelle, Turkmen mountain sheep, onager, striped hyena, caracal, leopard, short-toed eagle, golden eagle, and others.
he vegetation in Badkhyz includes 1,050 varieties of vascular plants (442 genera and 76 families) of which more than 75 species and subspecies are endemic. The nature reserve incorporates 3 natural preserves (all established in 1956):
hemenibit (floodplain-river, the summer drinking place for onagers);
yzyldjar (piedmont, the drinking place for mammals and birds);
Pulikhatum (piedmont, the drinking place for mammals and birds).

The Kopetdag nature reserve   was set up for the conservation and integrated study of the mountain forest ecosystems. The protected territory spreads over high and medium mountains of the Central Kopetdag, i.e. between meridians crossing the Archman railway station in the west, and the Gyaurs station in the east. The nature reserve provides habitats for 68 species of mammals and 280 species of birds. More than 960 species of plants grow here. The nature reserve incorporates two natural preserves established in 1976: Kalininsk (mountains), and Meana-Chaacha (piedmont).

The larger territory of the Kaplankyr nature reserve  is occupied by the Kaplankyr clay plateau-like upland, the southern spur of the Ustyurt Plateau. According to the botanical geography, the protected territory lies at the junction of northern and southern deserts. Here are found 26 species of mammals, 147 species of birds, and 918 species of higher plants. Protected here are rare species of animals, such as the Central Asian gazelle, the Ustuyrt mountain sheep, ratel, etc.; among higher plants – the Khiva thistle, Turkmen tulip, Antonia’s gypsophila, Karelin sand acacia, and other 55 endemic species. In addition, enormous populations of saiga antelopes that migrate here from Karakalpakstan in the winter are also protected in the nature reserve. The Kaplankyr nature reserve incorporates two natural preserves: Sarykamysh (established in 1980; lake-coastal ecosystems) and Shakhsenem (established in 1984; stony desert).

The main directions of activity in the Kugitang nature reserve  are the conservation and restoration of the mountain ecosystems in the Southern Pamir-Alai. The Kugitangtau range forms the border between the Mountain-Central Asian and Iranian biogeographic provinces, and is characterized by specific physiographical conditions and the original flora and fauna. 22 species of mammals and 80 species of birds were registered in the nature reserve. About 1,000 species of higher plants, among which 40 are endemic, have been found in the nature reserve. The Kugitang nature reserve incorporates 3 natural preserves (all established in 1986):
arlyuk (karst; protection of unique subsurface caves, the world’s only population of the Kugitang blind char);
hodjapil (mountain forest; conservation of Zarafshan juniper, “Dinosaurs Plateau”, screw-horned mountain goat, and others);
Khodja-Burdji-Belend (mountain forest; protection of pistachio areas).

The Karakum Desert occupies the area of about 35 million ha, or more than 80% of the whole territory of Turkmenistan. According to its geological and natural conditions, the Karakum can be divided into three large parts: Northern or Zaunguz, Central or Lowland, and South-Eastern Karakum. The latter incorporates the Repetek State Biosphere Reserve  where 20 species of mammals and 23 species of birds live. The total flora of higher plants growing here includes 269 species belonging to 206 genera and 84 families. Of 132 species of aboriginal plants in the Repetek nature reserve 42 species (31.8%) are endemic for the Karakum and Kyzylkum deserts.

The Syunt-Khasardag nature reserve includes ecosystems of the Western Kopetdag mountains (dry subtropics) and neighboring plains. Here, 37 species of mammals and 217 species of birds are found. Flora of the Western Kopetdag includes 1,266 species of higher plants, which belong to 233 genera and 500 families; among these, 150 species are endemic. The nature reserve incorporates one mountain natural preserve, the Syunt-Khasardag (established in 1990). It is separated from the Central part of the nature reserve in order to improve social and economic conditions of the population in the Garrygala etrap (district).

The desert ecosystems, dry subtropics, and marine shallow bays in the southeastern coast of the Caspian are included into the Khazar nature reserve. It consists of two parts, Essenguly and Krasnovodsk. It was set up in 1968 on an area of 192,300 ha. This nature reserve is included in the list of aquatic and wetland habitats of the international significance that are under protection of the Ramsar International Convention. The Khazar nature reserve provides the habitat for 18 species of mammals and 372 species of birds. Of the bird fauna, nearly a half is waterfowl and near-water birds, which is a specific feature of the Khazar nature reserve (more than 85% of its territory covers the water areas, bays, and sea).

Posted by countryturkmenistan at 12:18 PM
Updated: Monday, 4 December 2006 12:38 PM
Tuesday, 27 June 2006
Gemstones of Turkmenistan
Topic: Environment & ecology
Turkmenistan is rich in the gemstones deposits and occurrences. Many of Turkmen gemstones are well-known to collectors and connoisseurs in our country and abroad. The most famous one is the Karluk marble onyx deposit located in the Gaurdag-Kugitang region in the very east of Turkmenistan. By its colour and beauty of natural ornaments marble onyx has no analogues all over the world. Onyx is a banded variety of chalcedony. The colours of its bands are brown (varying from semi-transparent yellow to dark brown) and white. Onyx occurs in the caves as various dripstones and it is used for making souvenirs – caskets, candlesticks, vases. The stones of remarkable beauty are used for making jewelry. The beautiful druses of gypsum, calcite and aragonite crystals occur in the Kugitang caves.

Turkmenistan is also famous for the Beyneu celestine deposit located in the north-west of Turkmenistan. The transparent blue crystals (up to 2-3 cm in length) fill the cavities in the mass pink celestine layers from 5 cm to and 15-20 and more. The Beyneu celestine is very spectacular and popular among collectors and connoisseurs.

The Kafigshem occurrence of quartz-chalcedonic geodes are located in the north of the Tuarkyr Mountains. The Tuarkyr geodes are the wonderful collection stones. They occurred in the stratified rocks dated back to the upper Jurassic period. The geodes composed of chalcedony for the most part have the cavities with internal quartz and calcite crystal formations.

The geodes can form in any cavities that are buried. Mineral substances from groundwater or hydrothermal solutions allowed crystals to form inside the hollow chamber. Over millions of years the geodes make its way back to the surface through normal geologic processes. Their forms and shades of colour vary - making each geode unique. The beauty of stones is revealed when polished displaying the unique play of various colours and shades. They have the round shape and sizes which vary from 2-3 cm to 25-30 cm. The geodes composed of chalcedony for the most part are hollow. Usually the cavities are formed from rock crystals and amethystine quartz crystals. Besides calcite crystals, rarely blue calcite, barite and gypsum and acicular crystals of hydrate of iron occur in the cavities. The colour of chalcedonic shell is white, gray, rarely bluish, yellow and brown in various combinations. The geodes in the Kafigshem occurrences are the wonderful collection materials and decorative stones, brooches, pendants, necklaces and other jewelry are made from agathic diversities.

A jasper occurrence is located near the settlement of Kyzyl-Kaya (Tuarkyr). Turkmen jasper has rare saturated colours varying from yellow to red. Its gaily colored layers alternate with the dark-grey streaks of adjoining rock creating the landscape drawing. Tuarkyr jasper can be used for making jewellery.

Fossilized wood that is of particular interest to collectors and connoisseurs occurred in the Tuarkyr deposits. Fossilized tree occurred in the deposits of the Jurassic (170 millions years) and the Permian (260 millions years) periods.

Turkmenistan: the Golden Age
24 June, 2006

Posted by countryturkmenistan at 12:16 PM
Monday, 5 June 2006
The Charm of Repetek
Topic: Environment & ecology

The Karakum desert may seem lifeless and dismal only to a man who has never been there. It is felt particularly strongly in Repetek, one of the most interesting and life-rich areas of the Karakum desert. The diversity of vegetation and animal life, magnificence of Repetek landscapes captivates even the experienced traveler. Not surprisingly, it is here that the first reserve in Turkmenistan was established almost eight decades ago. In 1979, on UNESCO's decision, the Repetek Reserve gained the status of the biosphere preserve and thereby was included in the list of the internationally recognized models of natural ecosystems.

The unique nature of this region attracts many scientists' attention. Such eminent specialists as geneticist Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov and founder of the contemporary soil science Vasiliy Vasilyevich Dokuchaev used to work in the Reserve. A Russian scientist and fiction writer, Vladimir Afanasyevich Obruchev, famous for his novels "The land of Sannikov" and "Plutonia" was here, and dozens of other outstanding scientists and men of arts stayed in the Reserve. Early last century, the famous geographer and traveler Pyotr Petrovich Semenov Tyan-Shanskiy was charmed by these places.

It can't be otherwise. Repetek is a place where on the relatively small territory one can see practically all forms of the Karakum's sandy landscape which, by the way, are natural to other big and small deserts of the world. It turns out that the sandy landscape can be dune-like, ridge-like and hilly. It is impossible to enumerate all possible variations. Part of the reserve carrying clear and resembling name "Repetek Sahara" is particularly striking. Once you are there, you lose the feeling of reality. It is so eye-catching. Dunes rise around in quaintly stark waves with their tops crowned by the thinnest yellow muslin - thousands of grains of sand disturbed by a blow of wind and stylishly lightened by bright sun rays. One can roam for hours in this fantastic realm of sand as if painted by an impressionist artist. No matter how big the dunes are, but this is exactly the way the restless wind moves them from one place to the other at its whim, sorting out these sand hills by each grain of sand. So, coming back to this place later, one may not recognize a seemingly well known landscape.

It is truly amazing that connoisseurs can find their way out in this vast desert, not only among moving sands, but in the wide-spread saxaul forests. The grove "Yaman tokay" located not far from "Sahara" is one of them. Like in other groves, ordinary trees, large enough and not so high, with branchy tops grow here. However, under the canopy of these crowns you will not find a habitual forest shade. Instead of leaves, saxaul has delicate green twigs. Thanks to them, the tree can easily stand the heat of summer, which sometimes warms the sandy surface up to 80 degrees Celsius. It is nothing else but a natural stove. It is not by chance that Repetek is ranked among the hottest parts of the planet and called a "pole of heat". In the summer, it is a scorching heat here!

Spring is quite different. It is a time when the desert gets rid of the winter numbness and takes on the splendid emerald clothing. It doesn't look like a desert at this time of the year. It is more like a blossoming garden. Bright red poppies, yellow flowers of gipecuum are scattered, as if by one's generous hand, in great number on the green carpet of sandy sedge, ilaka, under the canopy of transparent saxaul forest. Tidy bushes of astragalus seem violet due to the abundance of flowers emitting unrepeatable fragrance. Delicate rosettes of fresh ferule, as if created by skilful hands of lace-makers, are all around. The bushes of kandym, full of yellow flowers that by the summer turn to the bright fluffy balls, the plant's fruits, grow here as well. Like many other desert plants, kandym has no leaves. Instead, it has green twigs. The local rhubarb is quite a different plant. Its leaves sometimes grow to big sizes, up to a meter and a half. Another amazing tree of the desert is sandy silvery acacia, a slender 6-7 m high tree reminiscent of a weeping willow, but not a green one. It dares to grow among free-flowing dunes and is not afraid of being buried under the thickness of sand.

Scientists found out that the Karakum is the most reproductive desert of our planet. Interestingly, the higher the temperature is, as high as 50-60 degrees Celsius, the more effective is the functioning of its ecosystem. The fact that almost four hundred species of mushrooms, the lower and higher plants, more than half of the Karakum desert vegetation, grow here attests to the richness of flora of the Repetek Reserve.

The animal life of Repetek is also rich and diverse. There are almost 1.5 thousand species of invertebrates - beetles, butterflies, spiders and other small creatures. Among them are the ones that became of invaluable use for science. For instance, one of local darkling beetles was lucky to take part in ... the space travel. The astronaut beetle stood the test of flight, provided scientists with valuable information necessary for assessing the possibilities of long interplanetary expeditions. Poisonous insects of Repetek deserve special attention. A small and seemingly ordinary spider, karakurt, with venom 8-10 times stronger than that of cobra, turns out to be the most dangerous insect as compared to menacing scorpion, phalanx and tarantula.

Repetek is home to over 90 per cent of species of birds, reptiles and mammals, over 250 species of vertebrate animals, inhabiting the Karakum desert. Among reptiles one can come across a tortoise, a living fortress, a sandy and big-eared toad agama and a gecko, a fan of night adventures. There is also an opportunity to get acquainted with a dozen of snake species, almost half of the number of species inhabiting Turkmenistan. A pride of the reserve, Central Asian cobra, a beautiful and noble snake always warning a careless traveler of its presence, is also among them.

When facing a cobra as well as a phoorsa it is necessary to be careful and observe the "rules of etiquette", for they are poisonous. Repetek is also home to such an "imposing" reptile as a grey giant lizard. By the way, it is the biggest lizard in the country. Taking into consideration its menacing appearance, it is deservingly called a "crocodile of the desert".

Over 200 species of birds can come across in the very heart of the burning Karakum. A surprising fact is that among them are waterfowl attracted by reservoirs formed in the sandy quarries in the outskirts of Repetek. Such birds as saxaul jay, which is ideally adapted to the conditions of dry climate, cannot do without the desert. However, the birds of prey are rightfully considered the most imposing and famous birds of Repetek. A golden eagle, one of the largest eagles in the country, has become the decoration of the Reserve. A saker falcon and long-legged buzzard also impress with their menacing appearance. Watching a pigeon-size kestrel, a small but very deft hunter, is also interesting. A long-eared owl and a horned owl become the masters of skies at night.

Gnawing animals as cheek-weeds, gophers, jerboas are the most numerous among the mammals in Repetek. It is they that leave flowery patterns-rebuses on the sand restlessly unraveled by environmental specialists.

A tolai hare, one of the typical inhabitants of the desert, is frequently come across. There are also predators as a sand cat and a fox - a character of fairy tales. A rare desert predator, caracal (lynx), lives in the reserve too. It is an intelligent and reticent animal. To see it in the desert is a great luck. Gazelles, slender and long legged antelopes and a real decoration of the fauna of the country, are one the rarest and beautiful inhabitants of Repetek. In 2001, a special farm was set up to breed and rear the gazelles in the reserve.

The Repetek Reserve of the Ministry of Nature Protection of Turkmenistan is one of the numerous astonishing and wonderful natural corners of the Karakum, a land of bright sun, "golden" dunes and saxaul forests. This world-second desert has preserved its exceptional individuality and originality till nowadays, in many respects due to the centuries-old ability of the Turkmen people to live in harmony with the nature of the native land.
Today that traditions are being revived and environmental scientists are concerned with preserving the virgin beauty of Repetek, we would like to believe that decades and hundreds of years later the journey to the fairytale Turkmen desert will still be a real discovery for everyone.

Viktor OLGIN
Turkmenistan Analytic Magazine

Posted by countryturkmenistan at 4:50 PM

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