Naurzum (or Naurzym) Nature Reserve is one of the huge natural parks in the equally vast land area of Kazakhstan, which is referred to as the “Giant of Central Asia”. The country borders Russia, China, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and the Caspian Sea. Located in Kostanay Province, this place covers coniferous forests, native pine forests and birches, specifically Kyrgyz Birch that is endemic of Kazakhstan. This kind of birch tree grows only in a small area within the area and nowhere else in the entire planet.
Naurzum (Naurzum State Nature Reserve) is found in the Naursumskiy and Semiozernyi districts. It is made up of dry steppes, forest patches, meadows and lake systems, which include freshwater and brackish-water lakes. The lakes are found at the center area of the reserve. The park covers a total of 116,550 hectares, including a 2-km wide restricted “buffer zone”.
The most important animals that consider Naurzum as their home are the grave eagle, roe deer, elk and hissing swan, which is the animal symbol of the park. Some also consider the grave eagle as the park’s symbol. (There are 30 identified couples of grave eagles living within the park’s lush forests.)
There are 281 species of bird and 158 of them are breeding. Birds found in the forests are the black grouse, common wood pigeon, European turtledove, great spotted woodpecker, stonechat, Eurasian golden oriole, azure tit, great tit, common redstart, tree pipit and common swift. Birds that are found within the park’s meadows are yellow wagtail, common quail, grey partridge, Montagus harrier and Eurasian curlew. There are birds of prey lurking within the nature reserve and they are the golden eagle, pallid harrier and falcon, to name a few. Meanwhile the most varied kinds of bird are the water-birds, which include 29 duck species, 41 wader species, 13 gulls, 3 pelicans and 3 cranes, among others.
Naurzum is well known around the world for its biodiversity. Visitors to the park are thrilled to see passing moose, deer, wild boar, red fox, weasel, badger and the elusive lynx, or hear the wailing of wolves. There are 44 species of mammal, two of which are visiting species. The most commonly sighted mammals in the steppes are bobak marmot, yellow ground squirrel, European hamster and birch mouse, among other rodents. Meanwhile, inhabiting the forests are the red squirrel, European hedgehog and raccoon dog, and those found along the banks of the lakes are wood mouse and pygmy shrew. The park’s fertile surface is alive with crawling snakes, vipers, frogs and toads, while the waters are teeming with carps (the most common type in the park), tench or doctor fish, northern pike and European perch, among others.
The Kazakh Government is now keeping a close watch of Naurzum Nature Reserve. It has been the object of several research studies and preservation efforts. The greatest threats to the park are the lowering of water levels in lakes and fire, which could consume a huge chunk of the dry steppe forest. Naurzum is included in Kazakhstan’s list of wetlands of international importance and has been nominated to the UNESCO lists of World Natural Heritage Sites and biosphere reserves.