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Established: 1990
39,289 ha (393 km2)
Buffer zone:
72,443 ha (724 km2)


Ershova ul. 10
Primorsky Krai
Russia 692245

Contact: Sushitsky, Yuri Petrovich, Director

Tel/fax: +7 (423-52) 2-31-38

Email: khanka@mail.primorye.ru

Photo by Konstantin Kikhailov
Konstantin Mikhailov

Zapovednik Images
Zapovednik Facts

Lake Khanka in the Russian Far East is one of the largest bodies of freshwater in Asia.  The wetlands of Lake Khanka, which reaches into China, provide important nesting and stopover areas for hundreds of migratory birds.  Khankaisky Zapovednik, made up of five sections around the lake and the nearby Sungacha River, was established to protect migratory bird nesting sites and to conserve the unique wildlife and plant communities of Lake Khanka.  But long before the nature reserve was created, Lake Khanka was recognized as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.  In 1996, Russia and China signed an agreement establishing the Lake Khanka International Nature Reserve.

Images of Khankaisky Zapovednik
Click on each photo to see a large version.

Konstantin Mikhailov photo
© Konstantin Mikhailov

The reserve has the largest population of the rare Chinese soft-shelled turtle.

Konstantin Mikhailov photo
© Konstantin Mikhailov

Swans use Lake Khanka for nesting and stopover during migration.

Konstantin Mikhailov photo
© Konstantin Mikhailov

Mollusks are a delicacy for many of the birds nesting on Lake Khanka.

Konstantin Mikhailov photo
© Konstantin Mikhailov

A crab darts to the safety of Lake Khanka to avoid predation.

Konstantin Mikhailov photo
© Konstantin Mikhailov

The wetlands of Lake Khanka have been declared a Ramsar site.


Konstantin Mikhailov photo
© Konstantin Mikhailov

Lake Khanka glows at sunset.

Konstantin Mikhailov photo
© Konstantin Mikhailov

A great egret chick awaits its mother.

Konstantin Mikhailov photo
© Konstantin Mikhailov

A great egret soars over Lake Khanka.

Khankaisky Zapovednik Facts:


Khankaisky Zapovednik lists 43 mammals among fauna species found in the reserve.  Amur wildcats (Felis euptilura) prowl lake edges for prey and may encounter raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procynonoides) and Siberian weasels (Mustela sibirica) also on the hunt.  Red wolf (Cuon alpinus) and Amur tiger (Panthera tigris) are two large predators that have been noted in the reserve.  Muskrats (Ondatra zibethica) inhabit small lakes, and otters (Lutra lutra) are found in wetlands here as well.  As a red fox (Vulpes vulpes) makes its way through grassy meadows, it scares up a Siberian roe deer (Capreolus pygargus), causing it to bound away.  Sika deer (Cervus nippon), wild boar (Sus scrofa), and mountain hare (Lepus timidus) inhabit the reserve’s few forested areas.

Khankaisky Zapovednik has one of the highest levels of bird diversity in all of the temperate zone of Eurasia.  The reserve and its buffer zone are home to 327 migratory, nesting, and wintering birds.  Khankaisky Zapovednik offers protection to more than three-quarters of the birds listed under the international convention on protection of migratory and endangered species of birds.  Forty-nine of the bird species found in the zapovednik are listed in the Russian Red Book and 12 are on the IUCN International Red List.  Rare and endangered species for the region include cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis), Eurasian spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), Japanese crested ibis (Niponia nippon), swan goose (Anser cygnoides), lesser white-fronted goose (A. erythropus), Baikal teal (Anas formosa), Chinese merganser (Mergus squamatus), Mandarin duck (Aix galericulata), Oriental white stork (Ciconia boyciana), red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis), hooded crane (G. monachus), white-tailed sea-eagle (Haliaëetus albicilla), Steller’s sea-eagle (H. pelagicus), and others.  Khankaisky Zapovednik also protects the only nesting grounds for the Yangtse parrotbill (Paradoxornis heudei) and the intermediate egret (Egretta intermedia) in all of Russia.  Common birds in the zapovednik include quail (Coturnix coturnix), pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), yellow-legged buttonquail (Turnix tanki), northern hobby (Falco subbuteo), common kestrel (F. tinnunculus), and northern, marsh, and pied harrier (Circus cyaneus, C. aeruginosus, C. melanoleucus).   Common shorebirds found along Lake Khanka include little ringed and long-billed plovers (Charadrius dubius, C. placidus), redshank (Tringa totanus), sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa), and Eastern curlew (Numenius madagascariensis). 

The largest population of the extremely rare Chinese soft-shelled turtle (Trionyx sinensis) in the Russian Far East is found in Khankaisky Zapovednik.  Sosnovy Island in Lake Khanka is one of the turtles’ preferred places to lay eggs.  Other amphibians found in the reserve include the Chinese bell toad (Bombina orientalis), Asiatic grass frog (Rana chensinensis), and Japanese tree toad (Hyla japonica).  Reptiles include the short-tailed viper (Agkistrodon blomhoffi) and brown mamushi (A. saxatilis), among others

Lake Khanka has been well known for its bounty for centuries.  In the middle ages, fish from Lake Khanka was served at the tables of Chinese emperors.  Today, huge kaluga fish (Huso dauricus) weighing 600 kg still swim in the lake.  Altogether, there are 74 species of freshwater fish in Lake Khanka; of these six are rare and endangered.  Fish requiring protection include the black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus), the black Amur bream (Megalobrama terminalis), the small-scale carp (Plagiognathops microlepis) – an endemic of the Khanka and Ussuri regions, as well as the Soldatov catfish (Silurus soldatovi), and Chinese bass (Siniperca chuatsi).


The landscape in Khankaisky Zapovednik is primarily open lowlands with grassy meadows, swamps, and numerous small lakes.  Meadow-bog communities on the eastern shore of Lake Khanka are home to unique assemblages of plants and animals found nowhere else in the Far East.  Meadows cover nearly a fifth of the reserve and wetlands cover 60 percent of the area.

Forest lands are few and far between in the zapovednik.  Fragments of forests are made up of Mongolian oak (Quercus mongolica) mixed with other broadleaf species such as Amur oak (Phellodendron amurense), linden (Tilia spp.), elm (Ulmus spp.), and Manchurian ash (Fraxinus mandshurica).  The only real stand of forest on the southern shore of Lake Khanka is found on Luzanova Hill, on the Ryabokon Peninsula in the mouth of the Ilistaya River.  It is also the only place in the Primorye Region where the rare licorice grass (Glycyrrhiza pallidiflora) grows. 

In all, 322 species of aquatic plants and 620 vascular plants have been identified in the zapovednik, including 16 rare species.  Sosnovy (Pine) Island, with an area of 1.5 km2, has the only population of rare Japanese red pines (Pinus densiflora) on the Russian part of Lake Khanka.  The large pink blossoms and thick green leaves of the rare Komarov lotus (Nelumbo komarovii) cover the water near lake shores in summer.  Other warmth-loving rare aquatic plants in the zapovednik are prickly water lily (Euriale ferox) and Manchurian water chestnut (Trapa manshurica). 

Geographical Features

Khankaisky Zapovednik is situated in the central part of the western Primorye plain on lowlands surrounding Lake Khanka and the Sungacha River basin.  Khankaisky Zapovednik consists of five different territories, situated on the western, eastern, and southern shores of Lake Khanka and in the upper reaches of the Sungacha River.  The five sections are:  Sosnovy (375 ha); Melgunovsky (300 ha); Rechnoy (12,494 ha); Zhuravliny (9,479 ha); and Chyortovo Boloto (16,641 ha).  The sections fall under six different administrative districts (Khankaisky, Khorolsky, Chernigovsky, Spassky, Kirovsky, and Lesozavodsky).  Most of the zapovednik is lowlands dotted with wetland areas, although there are some hills in the reserve or on its borders (Luzanova, Siny Gay, Cheremshovaya, and Zmeinaya hills).  Five low ridges extend parallel to the eastern shore of Lake Khanka – these are previous coastlines of the lake, now separated by swamplands.  Two small islands (Sosnovy and Vasilevsky) are protected in the zapovednik in the southwestern part of Lake Khanka.

Khankaisky Zapovednik includes part of Lake Khanka, its floodlands, numerous small lakes, several rivers flowing into the lake, and the only river flowing out of it (the Sungacha).  Khanka Lake is one of the largest bodies of freshwater in Asia.  It extends 90 km in length, with a maximum width of 70 km.  The overall surface area of the lake is 4,070 km2, and the average depth is 4.7 m, with a maximum depth of 10.6 m.  One of the ancient names of the lake is Khankai-Omo, which means “Sea of feathered birds” in Chinese.  Major rivers in the zapovednik are the Sungacha, Spasovka, Ilistaya, Melgunovka, Komissarovka, and Bolshie Usachi.  The largest peat bogs are found on the eastern shore of Lake Khanka in the Zhuravliny (Crane) and Rechnoy (River) sections of the zapovednik, and in the Chyortovo Boloto (Devil’s Swamp) section in the lowlands along the Sungacha River.

The climate around Lake Khanka is generally monsoon type, with large variations among seasonal and even daily air temperatures.  The winter has little snow, spring is dry and cool, and summer is warm with large amounts of precipitation.  Annual precipitation ranges from 500-650 mm per year.  January is the coldest month of the year (-20oC), while July is the warmest (+20oC).  Winds prevail from the south and southwest throughout the year.  Ice covers Lake Khanka beginning in November.

Conservation Status

Lake Khanka has attracted people to discover its secluded beauty for centuries.  The lake first gained international fame in the 19th century after explorer Nikolai Przhevalsky visited the area in 1868 and wrote about his travels and the animal and plant life of Lake Khanka.  In 1902, Vladimir Arseniev, a well known explorer and ethnographer of the Russian Far East, made his first expedition to Lake Khanka.  In the 1970s, the famous film “Dersu Uzala” by Japanese producer Akira Kurosava was shot here, and in 2000, the producer’s son visited the lake to work on a film about his father. 

In the second half of the 20th century, intense agricultural development resulted in pollution of Lake Khanka’s waters, particularly as a result of run off from rice fields.  Drainage of neighboring wetlands also impacted the lake’s ecological balance.  Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, economic crises have resulted in less widespread use of herbicides and pesticides.  Flows of wastewater into the lake have eased up, and drainage of wetlands has been halted.  As a result, the lake has had a chance to restore itself.  However, human pressures still impact the lake and surrounding ecosystems, mainly from agriculture, factories processing agricultural goods, fish farms, and tourism.

Khingansky Zapovednik, which is made up of five strictly protected sections, has played an important role in conserving and restoring wetland ecosystems of the Lake Khanka region.  Several of the reserve’s clusters are joined by a buffer zone of significant size where wetland drainage and use of pesticides are prohibited.  The Khankaisky Regional Zakaznik (Sanctuary) also falls under the jurisdiction of the zapovednik.  As much of the zapovednik is located within the border zone between Russia and China, it is given an added level of protection due to stringent guarding of the national border.

Lake Khanka received the status of a Ramsar wetland of international importance in 1971, nearly 20 years before the zapovednik was established.  In 1996, Russia and China signed a bilateral agreement on creating the Lake Khanka International Nature Reserve, combining Khankaisky Zapovednik in Russia with Sinkai-Khu Nature Reserve (57,700 ha) in China.  The two reserves share borders in areas.  Khankaisky Zapovednik has hosted delegations from the Chinese reserve and has participated in joint scientific research projects.  A joint Russian-Chinese Commission was established to coordinate cross-border cooperation, and the members meet twice annually. 

Today, Khankaisky Zapovednik is promoting monitored ecotourism to allow visitors from Russia and beyond experience the pleasures that Lake Khanka has to offer.  The reserve has organized eight tourist routes, many of which offer excellent bird watching opportunities, particularly in late spring and early fall, when migratory birds flock to the Khanka wetlands.  River rafting, boating, horseback riding, and hiking are also offered.  Visitors can view archeological monuments from a range of eras, the oldest dating back 15,000 years, on the Ryabokon Peninsula in the zapovednik’s buffer zone.


Internet site:  www.khanka.nm.ru (Russian)

Directory of Wetlands of International Importance: www.wetlands.org/RDB/Ramsar_Dir/RussianFed/RU003D02.htm (English)

Zabelina, N.M, L.S. Isaeva-Petrova, and L.V. Kuleshova.  Zapovedniks and National Parks of Russia.  Logata, Moscow, 1998 (Russian and English).

Text prepared by Laura Williams

Thanks to Yuri Darman and Yuri Bersenev of the World Wide Fund for Nature-Russian Far East Office (www.wwf.ru) for providing information on this reserve.

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