Hazar State Natural Reserve is 85 years old

Hazar State Natural Reserve of the State Committee for Natural Protection and Land Resources can be easily called as ornithological as the man purpose of its work is the protection of the conditions of inhabitation, accounting and study of waterfowl and water-related bird species. From the moment of its foundation, its main objecctives were the study and protection of birds coming here grom the northern countries like russia and Kazakhstan for winter stay as well as during spring and autumn migration. This year, the reserve is 85 years old and 100 years since the foundation of targeted natural protection activities on the Caspian Sea.

The start of the Caspian biodiversity protection was forestalled by Bern Congress in November 1913 in Switzerland where the scientists from different countries outlined priority objectives of protection of marine birds and mammals. Later, three natural reserves were founded in the Caspian Sea in different years on the territory of Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. Esenguly Ornithological Reserve, now Hazar State Natural Reserve, strted its work in 1932 and after 40 years of work was awarded with special Diploma of International Council of Natural Protection for the level of scientific studies. In 1994, large part of Ogurjaly Island, 7 thousand hectares out of 9 thousand hectares of land area, was included into its territory.

The Reserve includes not only marine water areas but also water pools related to the land, which are rich with flora and fauna. The largest part of the Reserve, Hazar, includes shallow waters of Turkmenabshy, Balkan, Northern Cheleken and Mikhaylov bays surrounded by 1-kilometer protection zone. Around 77 percent of the territory of this part is water area. The coasts of the bays are surrounded by mountains, sands, dunes and salt marshes.

The second part called Esenguly and is located 300 kilometres apart from the first one in the southern part of the etrap with the same name. Local group of steppe antelope, the jeyran included in the Red Book, is housed within the boundaries of Reserve, which stretches for 37 kilometres of sandy Ogurjaly Island. In the absence of the predators, they are bred and re-introduced to the main land zones of the original habitation.

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, which was ratified by Turkmenistan in 2008 and having international significance for the areas of habitation of waterfowl, allowed including the northern water area of Hazar State Natural Reserve in reserves of international significance and to the list of wetlands having international significance (Ramsar Register) in 2009. Protected bays are traditional places of winter stay and nesting of numerous wetland birds and that is why 72 percent of the territory of the Reserve are listed in the Main Ornithological territories of Turkmenistan.

416 species of vassal plants are registered in reserve zone and six of them are included to the third edition of the Red Book of Turkmenistan. Biodiversity of vertebrates of the Reserve is also great. There are rare Caspian stone eel, spike fish, Volga herring, Caspian bulltrout, white salmon. There are 55 species of fish out of 65 known to the scientists in Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea; five of them are in the Red Book. There are such valuable species as beluga, sturgeon, stellate sturgeon, white salmon, herring, grey mullet, pikeperch and others. There is the diversity of the seaweed, which thick overgrowth provides food for thousands of wintering birds as well as serves as substrate for fish spawning.

The role of the Reserve in protection of rare and threatened species of biodiversity of Turkmen sector of the sea. There are rare birds like spoonbill, white-fronted wild goose, griffon, bustard. There are jackals, foxes, porcupines, boars, wolves, badgers, mottled polecats, reed and sand cats, hares, ground squirrels among the mammals living in Caspian protected zone and along the Atrek River. Goitred gazelle, hyena, otter, caracal, dune cat are listed in the Red Book of Turkmenistan. 26 species of invertebrates forming local zoobenthos were discovered by the results of long hydro biological researches on the territories of the bays of the Reserve. For example, representative of arthropods, the ten-leg crawfish is very popular invertebrate animal in Turkmenbashy Bay.

Turkmen coast of the Caspian Sea turns into bird’s Eldorado for 6 – 7 months every year. It is known that water area, shallow bays of the Caspian Sea are used by migrating birds for rest and feeding, nesting or hibernation. The birds are attracted by favourable climate, warm and clean water, rich food base. In summer time, the islands, spits and floods of the Reserve are the shelters for thousands nesting of terns, seagulls, sandpipers, mallards, great-crested grebes, cormorants. Years of studies discovered that shallow waters of Hazar, Milhaylov, Balkan and Northern Cheleken bays are favourite places for waterfowl and wetland birds. Esenguly section of the Reserve is the only place in our country where close relative of grey grouse, the turaj, inhabits.

Coast line and bays of the Reserve give food to numerous ducks like mallards and teals; flocks of red-nose and red-headed pochards, blue and tufted ducks, bold coots are hunting in the sea. Lake, grey and silver seagulls, river terns fly to all directions catching small fish from the surface. Predator birds are always somewhere close. Huge white-tailed sea eagles fly around the flocks of ducks searching for weak and sick birds acting as purgers. Plenty of swans comes for hibernation in this area. Local ornithologists watch the life of rare pink and curly pelican, spoonbill, flamingo, little bustard, saker falcon; make registration of birds and watch seasonal overflies and do other scientific and practical works.

Specialists of the Reserve carry out bio technical, scientific and practical activities for protection of natural reserves of the Caspian Sea and ecological control for emergency situations.

Natural protection of the Caspian Sea, care of rare and threatened species remain the main objectives of the state natural protection activity. There is a museum on nature in the Reserve for popularisation of ecological knowledge. Numerous events, contests, competition, public actions including coastal clean-up from the debris brought by the sea are organized for the children.