Ile-Alatau National natural Park, Kazakhstan
Founded in 1996, the National Park was created not only to preserve the beauty of the Zailiisky Alatau mountain range, but as the “green heart” of an enormous territory in which more than two million people reside. Legend says Silk Road caravans took seeds from its famous apple trees and spread apples all the way to Europe. The trees also gave Almaty its original name, Almatu, or "father of apples."
Known for its untouched nature, Zailiisky Alatau provides the southern portion of Almaty Oblast region with water resources and, first and foremost, high quality drinking water, an invaluable gift of nature of which many inhabitants of Kazakhstan’s steppe and desert zones are deprived. The mountain forests regulate the water flow, enriching the air with oxygen and phytoncids. They protect the slopes from rain and wind streams, slow the melting of the snow, transfer surface runoff into the soil, and impede the formation of mudslides and soil erosion. Zailiisky Alatau’s biological diversity is a most valuable resource that ensures the development of future generations and enables the preservation of the genetic roots of various species. The park’s unique nature and its cultural landscape are of value for all humanity. In order to preserve the park for current and future generations, in 2001 the government of Kazakhstan placed the park on the preliminary inventory of locations put forth for inclusion in the List of World Heritage Sites.
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Size and Location
Located on the northern slopes of Zailiysky, Ile-Alatau National natural Park is in the territory of the Northern Tien Shan mountain range, to the south of the cities Alma-Ata, Kaskelen and Turgen. The park occupies an area of about 200 thousand hectares stretching from Gorge Turgen in the east to the river Chemolgan in the west.
Flora and Fauna
The park is almost untouched by the advances of civilisation and contains a wealth of differing habitats from woodlands to Alpine meadows, glaciers and melt water lakes. The range of trees is particularly of note. From apricot, kurchavka Mushketov and maple Semenov, currants Yancheuski, Caucasian carcass and, of course, to the famous apple Sievers. The area is probably the genetic root of all the know varieties of apple trees in the world.
The park is home to approximately 300 species of animals and birds, including the snow leopard, Central-Asian lynx, Tean-Shan brown bear, Central Asian stone marten, mountain goat (or tau-teke), bearded vulture, golden eagle and bluebird of happiness.
Flora in the national park includes more than 1200 kinds of plants and, as a whole, on variety level reflects all Northern Tien Shan.
Challenges and threats
The Kazakhstan government has decided to construct a mountain-skiing complex for 150,000 people including hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, entertaining centers, playgrounds in the center of the national park. The mountain Kumbel is in a zone of ecological stabilization, but its slopes will be remade for skiing runs and gondola roads. Cutting down of 27,5 hectares of a relic coniferous forest for construction of the mountain-skiing village is planned. As an official remarked - "We will specify other migration ways for animals and replace plants."
Residents of Alma-Ata, civil activists and ecologists oppose this project, but to no avail. All legal claims in court have been rejected.