Mammals in the Altyn-Emel National Park are represented by 7 orders, 70 species, 14 of which are listed in the Red Book of Kazakhstan (marked with an asterisk):

1. Turkmen Kulan* - Equus hemionus onager
2. Przewalski's Horse* - Equus przewalskii
3. Red Deer* - Cervus elaphus
4. Gazelle* - Gazellа subgutturosa
5. Saiga* - Saiga tatarica
6. Argali* - Ovis ammon
7. Asian Barbastelle*Barbastella leucomelas
8. Tien Shan Brown Bear* - Ursus arctos
9. Stone Marten* - Martes foina
10. Marbled Polecat* - Vormela peregusna
11. Central Asian Otter* - Lutra lutra
12. Pallas's Cat* - Felis manul
13. Turkestan Lynx* - Lynx lynx
14. Ounce, Snow Leopard* - Uncia uncia

Equus Hemionus Onager

Turkmen Kulan, Asiatic Wild Ass, Onager* Equus hemionus onager

At one time, kulans inhabited almost the entire desert and semi-desert zones of Kazakhstan, but were completely destroyed by the middle of the 20th century. It was a Kazakh subspecies of the kulan, now completely extinct.

In 1953, 8 kulans of the Turkmen subspecies (onager) were brought to the Barsakelmes island in the Aral Sea, where they naturalized well. In February 1982, due to the deterioration of the ecological situation on the island, 23 Turkmen kulans were brought to the northern bank of Kapchagai. The animals settled well in their former habitats (the Ili depression is a fragment of the range of this species in the past), and in the spring the first crop of kulans appeared, whose homeland was Altyn-Emel.

For more than 30 years, the number of kulans of Altyn-Emel has increased a hundred times - their livestock today is more than 3000 heads (3607, as of 2021). This is the largest population in the world.

Kulan is a species from the equidae family. Outwardly, it looks very much like a donkey, but it has many features in common with a horse, so the kulan is often called a semi-donkey.

Kulans prefer to stay in open areas with pastures and water bodies. Kulans are constantly migrating animals, but with good pastures and watering places, they can stay in the same places for several days.

On the territory of the Altyn-Emel park, kulans keep to the area from the Besshatyr mounds to the Mynbulak and Shagan posts, as well as in the foothills of Matai, Degeres, Sholak, in the vicinity of the Zhantogai post, and in the Kyzylauyz gorge. Separate groups of kulans are found near the Katutau, Aktau, Kalkans mountains.

Their food is grasses, wormwood, saltwort, less often shrub fodder. For watering, kulans go to the Kapchagai reservoir and other water sources, more often in the afternoon (after 5 pm).

In summer, kulans graze at a distance of 2 to 5 m from each other, and in winter - very close to each other. Long migrations happen when they go to a watering place or move to another pasture.

Kulan is included in the Red Book of Kazakhstan and the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a rare and vulnerable species.

Equus Przewalskii

Przewalski's Horse* Equus przewalskii

The Przewalski horse is another example of the revival of an endangered animal.

Until the 19th century, herds of these wild horses inhabited vast areas of the plains of Kazakhstan, but by the beginning of the 20th century, the Przewalski's horse had completely disappeared in the wild, and only a small number survived in several zoos. It also created the conditions for the restoration of the species in various places of its former distribution.

In July 2003, 4 stallions and 4 mares from the Munich Zoo were brought to Altyn-Emel, for semi-free range maintenance. 3 years later, the first foal crop appeared, whose homeland was Altyn-Emel. Currently, there are 10 semi-free horses in the park.

The Przewalski's horse is the only wild horse in the world today. It was previously thought to be the ancestor of modern domestic horses, but recent research indicates that it is most likely an older species (3700 - 3100 BC), a feral descendant of an already domesticated horse, which for some reason become extinct, and the successful domestication of the horse took place much later, in the Bronze Age.

The Przewalski's horse is included in the Red Book of Kazakhstan and the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a rare endangered species.

Cervus Elaphus

Red Deer* Cervus elaphus

The Altyn-Emel National Park carries out semi-free range maintenance of the red deer subspecies in the tugai forests of the Ili river valley. This is a Bukhara deer or hangul* - Cervus elaphus bactrianus.

Previously, tugai deer lived in Kazakhstan in the floodplain forests of the Syr-Darya river, but were completely destroyed there.

In 1981, 22 deer were brought to Kazakhstan from Tajikistan, which naturalized well on the left bank of the Kapchagai, in the Karachingil state hunting farm in the lower reaches of the Turgen river. This made it possible to settle them on the right bank of the Ili river, in the riparian forests of Altyn-Emel.

Another subspecies of the red deer, maral*, is also very rare. One specimen was seen in the spruce woodlands of the Oryntai oasis (the upper reaches of the Uzynbulak river in the Altyn-Emel mountains).

Red deer is included in the Red Book of Kazakhstan and the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a rare and endangered species.

Gazella Subgutturosa

Gazelle, Persian Gazelle, Jeyran* - Gazellа subgutturosa

Gazelles are found everywhere on the plains of the Altyn-Emel National Park. Half a century ago, these graceful animals found themselves on the verge of extinction. Now, thanks to the protected status in the Altyn-Emel National Park, the local population of gazelles has reached 5000 heads (5181 heads were counted during wintering in the park in February 2020).

The number of gazelles in the park varies over the years and seasons, that depends on their migration within their range. Gazelles mainly come from the Almaty region. The exact number of animals that make up the sedentary Altyn-Emel groupe is unknown, since gazelles are counted only during the wintering period.

In the Altyn-Emel park, the lay of the lands and the distribution of vegetation make possible for gazelles to use almost the entire territory of the park all year round - the flat part and foothills of Sholak, Degeres, Matai, Big and Small Kalkans, Katutau and Aktau, where they concentrate in early spring. In summer, gazelles are divided into small herds and are found throughout the park, preferring areas with rich vegetation in small saxaul forests. In autumn, the main population of gazelles moves to the foothill zone, where there is more green grass than on the flat part of the park. In winter, saxaul forests and areas with shrub thickets are their main habitat.

The key factor is the state of the snow cover; therefore, the habitats of gazelles are limited to areas with a snow cover of no more than 10 cm.

In early spring, gazelles in some years move outside the park, crossing the Sholak mountains to the northern slopes and further to the Sary-Esik-Atyrau desert, and in the fall, with the onset of cold weather and snowfall, they return back to the intermountain valley of Kalkans and Matai.

Daily movements of gazelles are also observed throughout the park. From the Kapchagai reservoir and the Ili river, they pass to the foothills of Sholak, Degeres, Matai in the morning, and back in the evening. The same can be seen in the area of the Katutau mountains. From the Mynbulak oasis to the foothills of Small Kalkan, they move daily in the morning, and descend back to the plain in the evening.

The food of gazelles is diverse: lichens, grasses, herbs, suffrutices and shrubs (leaves, shoots, fruits). In the Ili Valley, they feed on wormwood, saltwort, adder's grass, astragali, conifers and saxauls all year round.

In the spring gazelles water from numerous khaks (puddles on takyrs in Central Asia with melt and rain water); in summer they visit watering places 2-3 times a day. Gazelles often approach the Kapchagai reservoir along dry river beds; they also drink water in the springs of the Mynbulak oasis.

Gazelle is included in the Red Book of Kazakhstan and the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a rare and endangered species.

Ovis Ammon

Argali, Arkhar, Mufflon, Tien Shan Wild Sheep* Ovis ammon

A rare species of ungulates. Lives in the Katutau, Kalkans mountains, in the low mountains of Dzhungarian Alatau.

The population of argali in the Altyn-Emel National Park does not exceed several dozen (172 heads as of 2021). For wild sheep, seasonal migrations outside the protected area are typical. Having left Altyn-Emel, they are deprived of proper protection, and herds return back with noticeable losses.

Argali live mainly in open spaces with slightly rugged relief: plateaus, gentle slopes of mountains, rugged foothills; they are rare on vast plains. Their pastures are with low-grass steppe or mountain-steppe vegetation.

In the Altyn-Emel park, in summer, argali lives in the Small and Big Kalkan, Katutau, Aktau, Sholak mountains; in the Degeres and Matai mountains, it is found only in some gorges.

When snow cover forms, argali living in high mountainous areas move to low mountainous areas, where the depth of snow cover does not exceed 20-30 cm. Spring-summer migrations of argali begin in late May and continue until the end of June. From the Kalkan mountains, argali migrate to the Sholak, Degeres, Matai mountains, crossing the intermontane basin, 15-20 km long.

Autumn mass migration of argali usually begins in mid-October and ends in early December. Most of the animals return to their winter habitats at the beginning of the estrus.

Argali mainly eat feather grass and creeper in the spring. Feather grass predominates in the diet in summer and winter. In summer, they also eat meadowsweet, saltwort, fescue. In autumn, onions prevail in the diet; in winter, argali also eat branches of white saxaul and tamarisk.

Argali can go without water for a long time. There is only one water source in the Kalkans mountains, located in the valley between the Big and Small Kalkans. Argali visit it regularly during the warm season. Animals living far from this source have to descend to the Ili river plain. They come to the river in the morning, less often in the afternoon and in the evening. During the rainy season, animals use the water that has accumulated in various holes in the ground. In winter, argali eat snow, which remains in shaded areas until mid-April.

The population density of argali in different parts of the mountain ranges of the park varies. The highest density is currently observed in the Big Kalkan and Katutau mountains.

Argali is included in the Red Book of Kazakhstan and the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a rare and vulnerable species.

Uncia Uncia

Ounce, Snow Leopard*Uncia uncia

In the 50-80s of the XX century, the snow leopard constantly lived in all south-west mountain ranges of Dzhungarian Alatau, as well as in the desert mountains of Katutau and Aktau, where it followed herds of Siberian ibex and argali. Currently, the snow leopard does not constantly inhabit the territory of the national park, but comes in when following migrating herds of Siberian ibex in winter. The fate of the snow leopard depends on the well-being of the ungulates.

The snow leopard has a protective coloring which makes it hard to notice against the background of stones and grass. The animal is very careful and keeps out of people's sight. Nevertheless, poaching made the species very vulnerable, and its population is tragically small nowadays.

Single sightings of the snow leopard were in the Aktau mountains and in the Uzynbulak gorge of Dzhungarian Alatau, where traces of the animal are noted at the present time. In the Matai mountains, the snow leopard was found in 2008, in the Degeres and Sholak ridges - in 2020-2021.

Snow leopard is included in the Red Book of Kazakhstan and the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a rare and endangered species.

23rd October is celebrated as International Snow Leopard Day.

Insectivores (Order Insectivora)

Insectivora: Erinaceus (Hemiechinus) Auritus
Eared Hedgehog
Lesser Shrew
Tundra Shrew
Lesser White-Toothed Shrew
Piebald Shrew
Eurasian Water Shrew

Bats (Order Chiroptera)

Chiroptera: Myotis Mystacinus
Whiskered Bat
Greater Horseshoe Bat
Lesser Mouse-Eared Bat
Grey Long-Eared Bat
Asian Barbastelle*
Noctule Bat
Common Pipistrelle
Serotine Bat
Northern Bat
Particolored Bat
Savi's Pipistrelle

Carnivores (Order Carnivora)

Carnivora: Vuples Vuples
Common Fox
Corsac Fox
Tien Shan Brown Bear*
Stone Marten*
Steppe Polecat
Marbled Polecat*
Central Asian Otter*
Steppe Wild Cat
Pallas' Cat*
Turkestan Lynx*
Snow Leopard (Ounce)*

Ungulates (Order Perissodactyla)

Perissodactyla: Equus Hemionus Onager
Turkmen Kulan*
Przewalski's Horse*

Ungulates (Order Artiodactyla)

Artiodactyla: Sus Scrofa
Wild Boar
Siberian Roe Deer
Red Deer*
Siberian Ibex

Rodents (Order Rodentia)

Rodentia: Allactaga Elater
Small Five-Toed Jerboa
Severtzov's Jerboa
Northern Three-Toed Jerboa
Lesser Five-Toed Jerboa
Long-Tailed Ground Squirrel
Red-Cheeked Ground Squirrel
Gray Marmot
Forest Dormouse
Tien Shan Birch Mouse
Thick-Tailed Three-Toed Jerboa
Grey Dwarf Hamster
Eversmann's Hamster
Silver Mountain Vole
Tien Shan Red-Backed Vole
Water Vole
Kirghiz Vole
Narrow-Headed Vole
Northern Mole Vole
Tamarisk Jird
Libyan Jird
Midday Jird
Great Jerbil
Wood Mouse
House Mouse

Hares (Order Lagomorpha)

Lagomorpha: Lepus Tolai
Tolai Hare
Mountain Hare
Arba Travel

Your Guide to Altyn-Emel National Park

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