Kazakhstan, a vast country in Central Asia, boasts a stunning array of landscapes that support a rich diversity of wildlife including the iconic saiga antelope.
Vast steppe grasslands extend across much of the country from the Volga Delta in the west and Siberian plains in north to the Altai Mountains in the east. Moving southwards, the vista transitions into a desert landscape. Kazakhstan also features an ancient meteorite crater 14 km across.
The sad remains of the Aral Sea – once the fourth-largest lake in the world – can be found in the south-west of the country: a stark reminder of the immense devastation that can be brought about by poorly planned human activities.
Kazakhstan’s natural environment and biodiversity are suffering from the effects of human pressures – both current and historical.
Modern pressures – including oil, gas, coal and uranium extraction, road and infrastructure development, and poaching – coupled with historical issues such as nuclear weapons testing have degraded natural habitats and led to severe soil, air and water pollution.
Despite this, the country is still home to an astonishing variety of species, including over 6,000 vascular plants, 178 mammals and 489 bird species.
With the country undergoing much needed economic development, good stewardship of its rich natural heritage is now more important than ever.