Kazakhstan: ultra-marathon marks creation of Ile-Balkash Nature Reserve

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ALMATY (TCA) — A two-day ultra-marathon took place on April 27 and 28 in the Almaty Region to mark the creation of the new Ile-Balkash State Nature Reserve. The ultra-marathon was organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kazakhstan, Kazakh Agriculture Ministry’s Forestry and Wildlife Committee and the Marat#ON runners’ club of Marat Zhylanbayev, with support from Almaty Regional Administration, UNDP in Kazakhstan reported.

The expansion and creation of new protected areas is Kazakhstan’s key achievement in preserving biodiversity. These processes are in line with the measures taken by Kazakhstan to progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals to protect and restore land ecosystems as well as to take prompt action to curb climate change.

The Agriculture Ministry has been cooperating with UNDP for many years, in particular to preserve the globally important wetlands, agrobiodiversity, steppe ecosystems in the past and now to preserve biodiversity of the desert and semi-desert ecosystems.

A well-known Kazakh marathon runner Marat Zhylanbayev, who had run through the largest deserts in Asia, Africa, Australia and the USA, said that a total of 20 runners started a two-day ultra-marathon to run 200km from the village of Bakanas to the village of Karoy to draw attention to the importance of preserving biodiversity in Kazakhstan.

The youngest runner was 14 years old, and the oldest one was 60.

Marat Zhylanbayev added that the illegal logging and sale of saksaul is a burning problem for Kazakhstan, where the plant plays an important role in the prevention of desertification and degradation of soil.

It took eight years of preparations to create the Ile-Balkash Nature Reserve. The work included complex scientific research, the carrying out of the feasibility and scientific studies for creating the Ile-Balkash.

The modern delta of the River Ile is the last largest preserved delta in Central Asia with many wetlands, which are globally important for nesting of waterfowl and semi-aquatic birds, including for the ones which are facing the threat of extinction. The Ile-Balkash Nature Reserve’s ecosystems have a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna, which include a considerable number of Red Book, relict and endemic species.

Over the period of the implementation of UNDP biodiversity projects (since 2004) a total of six protected areas have been created with a total area of 2m hectares in Kazakhstan.

Sergey Kwan

TCA