Two new arid steppe lake systems in Kazakhstan are now under protection of the Ramsar Convention, which embodies the commitments of its member countries to plan for the "wise use", or sustainable use, of their wetlands.
Naurzum Lake System, a system of approximately 26 lakes, and Zharsor-Urkash Lake System, a system of approximately 14 lakes, have been included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.
Both lake systems have been described by WWF as “key wetland areas of Northern Kazakhstan” in 2002. WWF selected and described 16 most important lake systems in this region, and 4 among them are already in the Ramsar list.
“Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan are some of the most important areas for migratory birds in Eurasia. Huge numbers of geese, ducks, gulls, cranes, waders and other birds pass through the area in spring and especially in autumn”, says Dr. Tatyana Bragina, Coordinator of WWF projects in Kazakhstan.
The list of migratory waterfowl birds includes such rare and specially important species as lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus), red-breasted goose (Branta ruficollis), white-headed duck (Oxiura leucocephala), Siberian crane (Grus leucogeranus).
At the same time, the present condition of some wetlands in the area can be characterized as unsustainable because of increased anthropogenic pressure, such as autumn hunting, fishing and cattle-breeding.
One of the two lake systems is part of the “Saryarka – Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan” World Heritage natural property, and both are part of the Western/Central Asian Site Network under the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species. Both of the new sites are in the Kostanay Oblast or province.
Kazakhstan presently has six Ramsar sites covering a surface area of 712,105 hectares.