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Education and Raising Public Awareness in Kazakhstan
Fact Sheet 2.0 MB PDF

Management Improvements at Naurzum National Nature Reserve, Kazakhstan
Technical Brief 1.37 MB PDF

Water management planning for Naurzum National Nature Reserve, Kazakhstan
Technical Brief 1.52 MB PDF

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Zharsor-Urkash Lakes

Geographic Location

This site is located at 51° 22' 35'' N and 62° 48' 46'' E, 240 m above sea level, in Kamyshinsk Rayon (District), 15 km to the west from Druzhba village and 250 km to the southwest of Kostanay.


The area of the reserve is 29,334 ha of sand and feather-grass steppes with numerous deep hollows of fresh water and salty lakes. This territory is representative of Northern Kazakhstan natural wetlands and creates a valuable habitat for a number of rare bird species during spring and autumn migration. Flocks of tens of thousands of shorebirds stop on the shores of the salty lakes to feed during spring migration, while large numbers of geese, including Red-breasted Geese and Lesser White-fronted Geese stop there in the autumn.

The Red Book of Kazakhstan and IUCN* lists include 15 threatened bird species found in the reserve. There are nesting grounds of Little Bustard (NT), Demoiselle Crane, Pallid Harrier (NT), White-headed Duck (EN) and Sociable Lapwing (CR). Migratory species include Whooper Swan, Bewick’s Swan, Red-breasted Goose (EN), Lesser White-fronted Goose (VU), Ferruginous Duck (NT), White-tailed Eagle, Imperial Eagle (VU), Greater Spotted Eagle (VU), Steppe Eagle, Saker (EN) and Siberian Crane (CR).

Regular spring and autumn monitoring of waterbirds has confirmed that the project site hosts large concentrations of Eurasian and Demoiselle Cranes during autumn migration. Their numbers on some days reaches 15,000 birds. In addition, the rare Siberian Crane, only a few of which remain in Western and Central Asia, stops here together with the other crane species.

The main threats are the increasing frequency of fires in the area, and illegal hunting.

*IUCN Red List categories for globally threatened species are indicated in brackets after the birds listed: CR – Critically Endangered; EN – Endangered; V – Vulnerable; NT – Near Threatened.

Conservation Status

The Government Resolution of the Republic of Kazakhstan on the establishment of the Zharsor-Urkash National Nature Zakaznik (Reserve) was signed on June 11, 2008. Prior to the establishment of the reserve, there was no protection status for the site.

In 2006, Zharsor and Urkash lakes were officially included in the list of key Important Bird Areas (IBA) of Kazakhstan in cooperation with the Association on the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan under the IBA programme (BirdLife International, ACBK). In May 2007, this area was included in the Western/Central Asia Site Network for Siberian cranes and other Waterbirds (WCASN) under the Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species of Animals Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of  the Siberian Crane (CMS MoU). In July 2009 the Zharsor-Urkash Lake System was further designated a Wetland of International Importance through the Ramsar Convention.

SCWP Objectives

From 2005 to 2008, comprehensive studies of the Zharsor-Urkash lake system were made within the framework of the SCWP. Maps of ecosystems were prepared, a database and GIS for ecological monitoring was created, and an analysis was conducted of the results of studies made by the experts of the Institute of Zoology and other international projects over the previous 20 years, providing scientific evidence of the global value of the reserve area. Establishment of the reserve was included into the SCWP workplan, as well as the Conservation Plan for  2004-2006 under the CMS MoU.


Lake Zharsor

Eurasian cranes at Zharsor Lake

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Last update: 15 July 2008

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