First UNESCO World Heritage Site created in Central Asia



Posted on 11 July 2008  | 
Northern Kazakhstan
© WWF-RussiaEnlarge

UNESCO has included the site “Saryarka - steppes and lakes of Northern Kazakhstan” into the World Heritage List. The World heritage status will allow preserving rare species of migratory birds and the Saiga antelope.

Eight regions, located in Canada, France, Yemen, China, Mexico, Iceland, Switzerland and Kazakhstan got the World Heritage status at the UNESCO session in Quebec (Canada) 

“Saryarka - steppes and lakes of Northern Kazakhstan” is the first territory in Central Asia to receive the World Heritage status. The region comprises two protected areas: Naurzum State Nature Reserve and Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve totalling 450,344 ha.

UNESCO now protects lakes that are stopover points to many migratory birds flying from Africa, Europe and South Asia to their breeding places in Western and Eastern Siberia, including the extremely rare Siberian white crane, the Dalmatian pelican, Pallas’s fish eagle are now under the UNESCO protection”, says Olga Pereladova, head of WWF Central Asia Programme.

The new World Heritage Site is also home to over half the species of the region’s steppe flora and the Saiga antelope, formerly an abundant species much reduced by poaching. The horns of Saiga antelopes are illegally sold to China, where they are used in the medicine.

The biggest population of imperial eagle in the region and the most northern nesting place of the Greater Flamingo in the world are now also under the UNESCO protection.

The preparation of the documents for the creation of the World Heritage object in the Northern Kazakhstan began in 2001 with the initiative of WWF and Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU). The documents for nomination were submitted to UNESCO by the Forestry and hunting committee of the Ministry of Agriculture and by the Ministry of Environment of Kazakhstan in 2002. During the successive years a number of alterations were made according to the UNESCO recommendations. The Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) also assisted in the preparation of the nomination.

It took time to prepare the documents and take into consideration all the recommendations of UNESCO. Gradually new people and organizations joined our work. The decision of UNESCO is the common victory of all those people who long for keeping the richness and variety of Central Asian nature”, says WWF project leader in Kazakhstan Tatiana Bragina, who has devoted almost 30 years of her life to Naurzum State Nature Reserve and began the preparation of the documents for including it in the World Heritage List in 2001.

Northern Kazakhstan
© WWF-Russia Enlarge

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