Republic of Altai, Ust-Koksinsky District
Gorny Altai is a breathtaking region of primitive nature and ancient civilisation. Today many remnants from this past, such as stone statues, mystical wall-markings and ancient burial mounds, remain intact.
VP Semenov Tyan-Shansky was the first to propose the creation of a nature reserve in the high mountainous region of Central Altai in 1917. However it was not until 1991 that the Katunsky biosphere reserve was created. It covers an area of nearly 160 thousand hectares in the most high-altitude area of Gorny Altai on the Katunsky mountain range. The reserve was created with the aim of preserving the unique mountain biodiversity, and the recovery of the populations of rare and disappearing animal species (these include the snow leopard, the manul and the argali among others).
The reserve is also a part of the World Natural Heritage site, 'The Golden Mountains of Altai', and is bordered by Mount Beluha, the highest peak in Siberia at 4506m.
The zapovednik is spans an altitude range of 1300m to 3280m. This includes an expanse of highlands with glaciers, snowfields and rock placer deposits, as well as mountain passes with tundra, alpine and sub-alpine meadows. In the deeply cut valleys rivers flow, and the lower slopes are covered by forest.
There are 135 lakes in the territory of the reserve, and one of the largest rivers in the Altai region, the Katun, begins here. The climate is continental, with a high annual and daily range of temperatures. Winter here is sunny, windless and freezing (the average temperature in January is from -21є to -23є C), and in the summer there is a significant low-pressure influence (the average July temperature in mountainous regions is between +4є and +6є C, in the valleys -15є - +17є C). Flora and Fauna
Vegetation consists of steppe, meadow, woodland and mountainous zones, distinctly separate from one another, forming a specific structure known as altitudinal zonality. The most interesting species found in the 'Red Book' of endangered animals include the Ukokskaya Larkspur, Altai rhubarb, Steppe Peony and Altai onion. There are also species in the reserve which are only found in this region: endemic species such as Krylov Fescus grass, and relics of bygone eras such as the 'sharp-toothed' dryad.
There is a wide variety of wildlife in the reserve: there are several species of furred animal here, including sables, ermines and steppe polecats; predators include the lynx, brown bear and wolverine; among ungulates there are elks, several species of deer including red, musk and roe, and the Siberian ibex. What to see
Tours offered by the zapovednik include visits to interesting museums, such as the museum of the artist and philosopher N.K Rerikha, and the Old Believers museum in Vergh-Uymon. There are excursions to elk farms, where you can learn about the origins, history and traditions of antler production. There are also numerous lakes which attract tourists with picturesque waterfalls, clear water and snow-crested alpine peaks on the horizon.
Sources: oopt.info and zapoved.ru