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Established: 1963
93,995 ha (940 km2)
Buffer zone: 26,500 ha (265 km2)

Contact information:

Kopylov, Victor Victorovich, Director

Amurskaya oblast

Arkhara, Dorozhny per.6

Russia 676740

Fax: +7 (416-2) 31-82-66
Email: hingan@amur.ru

Through the veil of a dawn mist, fluid shadows take shape in a grassy marsh. The mist recedes, revealing red-crowned cranes, the most graceful birds in the Russian Far East, engaged in an ancient mating ritual. In an exquisite dance, the cranes leap upward and then delicately touch the ground again, tossing wisps of grass and twigs into the air. In the background, the dark, forest-covered spurs of the Maly Khingan Mountain Range are barely visible beyond the cavorting birds. Each year, cranes come to Khingansky Zapovednik in the Amur Region to breed and raise their young, who will carry on the fight for the species' survival. Known as the "crane" nature reserve, Khingansky Zapovednik's mission is to conserve extremely endangered cranes and storks in their natural wetland habitat, along the Amur River Basin. Appropriately, the red-crowned crane, one of the rarest crane species on Earth, is the symbol of Khingansky Zapovednik. For its role in protecting valuable crane habitat, the reserve has been declared a Wetland of International Significance by the Ramsar Convention.

Photo © 1996 Laura Williams

Zapovednik Images
Zapovednik Facts
Articles featuring this nature reserve in Russian Conservation News journal

Articles featuring this nature reserve in Russian Conservation News journal:

Russian Conservation NewsThe Crane's zapovednik, RCN #22, page 5, 2000


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

© Boyd Norton

Oxbow lakes remain from an ancient arm of the Amur River

© Boyd Norton

Captive bred red-crowned cranes are released to wild flocks.

© 1996 Laura Williams

The rare Komarov lotus nearly disappeared in the Amur River basin.

© Boyd Norton

Wetlands, protected in Khingansky Zapovednik, are important breeding areas for cranes.

© Laura Williams

Populations of white-naped cranes are growing thanks to Khingansky's breeding efforts.


© 1996 Laura Williams

Bearded mushrooms are parasitic on broadleaf trees.

© 1996 Laura Williams

The rare oriental white stork is larger than its European brother.

© 1996 Laura Williams

Birch trees line the edge of a swampy marsh.

Zapovednik Facts:

Siberian roe deer (Capreolus pygargus) and wild boar (Sus scrofa) are the most abundant members of the 44 species of mammals in Khingansky Zapovednik. These ungulates feed on grasses and roots in the marshy Arkharinskaya lowlands of the Amur River basin. Scattered populations of Asiatic black bear (Solenarctos thibetanus) and wolf (Canis lupus) roam higher ground in the forested spurs of the Maly Khingan Mountain Range. But, Siberian weasel (Mustela sibirica) is the most common predator in these forests. Its brightly-colored cousin, the rare Indian marten (Martes flavigula), is also found here. A dozen or so brown bears (Ursus arctos) feed on pine nuts and acorns in the mountains; one or two female bears raise their cubs in the reserve each year. The great Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris) disappeared from this region more than a century ago, and is now found only further south in the Primorye Province.

Raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procynonoides) - endemic to the Eastern Asian temperate zone - feel right at home in the wetlands, floodplains, and open marshes of Khingansky. This ancient ancestor of the canine family was driven out of many areas in the Russian Far East by farming and wetland drainage, which destroyed its habitat and food base of rodents and small birds. Khingansky Zapovednik is one of the only places left in the raccoon dog's native range where its optimal habitat is fully protected.

More than 300 species of birds, including 19 endangered species have been identified in Khingansky Zapovednik. The wetlands in the Arkharinskaya lowlands are prime breeding grounds for the endangered red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis), white-naped crane (Grus vipio), and oriental white stork (Ciconia boyciana). The oriental white stork, larger than its European brother and with a black instead of red beak, prefers to nest in tall trees on small hummocks overlooking open wetlands and marsh areas. These marshes are some of the last remaining isolated areas where red-crowned cranes nest each year, before flying south to wintering areas in South Korea and Japan. Once distributed widely in a continuous corridor along the Middle and Lower Amur River basin, red-crowned crane populations are decreasing worldwide despite international conservation measures. The current population of this species is estimated at 1,000 on the mainland and 600 on the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

In order to preserve the red-crowned crane and other rare bird species, Khingansky Zapovednik launched a progressive breeding program to create semi-wild populations of cranes in their natural habitat. Since 1988, the zapovednik's breeding and reintroduction station has raised 55 individuals representing 25 species of birds. Some of the birds were badly injured; of these 19 were rehabilitated and released back into the wild, including oriental white stork, golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), greater spotted eagle (Aquila clanga), cormorant (Phalacrocorax filamentosus), owls (Tytonidae), and waterfowl.

The main focus, however, of breeding efforts is to restore rare crane populations. In 1997, the breeding and reintroduction station released 13 cranes (red-crowned and white-naped) into the wild. While observing these birds, scientists at the zapovednik made an interesting discovery - cranes reared in captivity, and wild cranes that pair or live in close proximity with these, have become accustomed to humans; thus they are less likely to abandon their clutches when humans are near. This has led to a gradual increase in local crane populations. The zapovednik's efforts to reduce disturbance and protect the crane's natural habitat from spring fires and pollution help ensure that the semi-wild populations of these remarkable birds will survive and flourish.

Another fascinating bird that lives in the open areas of the Middle Amur basin is the yellow-legged buttonquail (Turnix tanki). This rare bird, which looks like a small common quail, prefers to hide in thickets or run away from danger rather than fly. Difficult to see, the wary bird is easier found by its cry, which resembles a piercing howl. More common birds, such as the colorful mandarin duck (Aix galericulata), take advantage of the abundance of lakes in the zapovednik to raise their young. Other waterfowl that breed in these lakes include mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and the rare in Russia swan goose (Anser cygnoides). Falcated teals (Anas falcata) commonly inhabit the zapovednik's protected rivers.


Khingansky Zapovednik protects a patchwork of meadow, swamp, wetland, and forest vegetation types on two separate territories. In the northern section of the zapovednik, broadleaf and mixed broadleaf-coniferous forests dominate the spurs of the Maly Khingan Range, mainly consisting of representatives of Manchurian flora. Tangled undergrowth of Chinese magnolia vine (Schizandra chinensis), actinidia (Actinidia colomicta), and Amur grapevine (Vitis amurensis) forms a nearly impenetrable web on the forest floor.

As the dense forest thins in the southern portion of the zapovednik, it is replaced by the Arkharinskaya lowlands, a mixture of vast meadows, bogs, and floodplain forests and lakes. Some of the lowlands are inundated with water in early spring and summer. As the water recedes, a carpet of flowers - lilies, irises, asters, geraniums, and peonies - takes over the meadows. Tall reeds and grasses overrun marshes and meadows in summertime.

Manchurian plant species prevail in Khingansky's vegetation cover, including eleutherococcus and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus spp.), Amur oak (Phellodendron amurense), actinidia (Actinidia colomicta), Amur barberry (Berberis amurensis), Korean pine (Pinus koraiensis), and Mongolian oak (Quercus mongolica). Mongolian oak is one of the most cold-tolerant oaks in the world, and its well-developed lateral roots help it withstand extremely windy conditions. Mongolian oaks live to be 300-350 years old, and wear numerous scars from ground fires.

Yeddo spruce (Picea jezoensis) and Khingan fir (Abies nephrolepis) are typical representatives of flora from the Okhotsk Sea and Kamchatka biomes. Other Eastern species include Eastern Siberian Daurian larch (Larix gmelini) and Daurian rhododendron (Rhododendron dauricum).

Altogether, 1,000 vascular plant species have been identified in Khingansky Zapovednik. Rare and endangered plants listed in the Russian Red Data Book include: lady's slipper (Cypripedium macranthon), yellow lady's slipper (Cypripedium calceolus), Japanese pagonia (Pagonia japonica), water chestnut (Trapa natans), and the Komarov lotus (Nelumbo komarovii). The Komarov lotus rings ponds with its lily pad leaves and large pink flowers, making a gorgeous summer spectacle.

Geographical Features

Khingansky is situated in the extreme southeast of Amur Province where the spurs of the Maly Khingan Mountains gradually recede into the flat Arkharinskaya lowlands of the Amur River basin. The Amur River is the second largest in Russia, stretching 4,345 km (2,700 miles), and forms much of the eastern border between China and Russia. The zapovednik consists of two separate territories; two-thirds of the reserve protects lowland plains with wetlands, bogs, steppe, and numerous small lakes. Originally created with an area of 58,300 ha (583 km2) in 1963, the zapovednik's territory was significantly augmented from 1978 to 1982 to its current size of 93,000 ha (930 km2) to include the area between the Uril and Gryaznaya rivers and parts of the Maly Khingan Mountain Range.

Today, forested spurs of the Maly Khingan Mountain Range are protected in the northern section of the zapovednik. The average height of the range in the zapovednik is 150-200 meters. Gryaznaya, the largest river in the zapovednik, begins in the Maly Khingan foothills. Here rivers are narrow with fast-moving water, sometimes forming canyons in their wake. As rivers leave the mountains, they spread out onto the open plain where their currents slow and their courses begin to meander. Two other large rivers, Uril and Mutnaya, are tributaries of the Amur River

Winters in Khingansky Zapovednik are cold, sunny, and windy. Snow is generally blown off the lowlands by strong winds from the northwest, causing the ground to freeze to a depth of two meters. A short spring is followed by a warm and rainy summer. More than 80% of the 550 to 700 mm of precipitation per year pours down in summer rains. Autumn is the most pleasant time of year, with warm sunny days on the beautiful background of fall foliage.

Conservation Status

Historically, virtually all the landscapes now protected in Khingansky Zapovednik have been impacted by humans in one way or another - fires, logging, grazing, haymaking, fishing and hunting have all taken their toll on natural ecosystems. Nevertheless, the zapovednik has given nature a chance to heal her wounds. Today, wetlands protected in Khingansky are some of the most important in the world for saving the rare red-crowned crane. All significant wetlands in the Arkharinskaya lowlands are protected either in Khingansky Zapovednik or in Ganukan Zakaznik, a special purpose preserve founded in 1985 between the two sections of the zapovednik. Together these protected areas cover 157,900 ha (1,579 km2). Moreover, the entire territory of the Arkharinskaya lowlands has been granted the status of Wetland of International Significance and Key Crane Territory as defined by the Ramsar Convention.

Habitat conservation is a key element for the survival of endangered crane and stork populations in Khingansky Zapovednik. One of the major threats to marsh habitats is careless grass burning on fields adjacent to the zapovednik. Traditionally, local residents burn fields each spring to accelerate new grass growth. These fires frequently blaze out-of-control, destroying crane nests and generally wreaking havoc on their breeding habitats. In an attempt to dampen the effects of runaway fires, scientists at Khingansky are currently developing techniques for fire regulation.

In order to build support among local people for crane conservation, the zapovednik carries out an active environmental education program. A favorite event of kids in the region is "Crane Day," which marks the festival begun in 1987 to observe the magical crane dances. Now each year, children and adults come to Khingansky on this day to participate in concerts, activities, and exhibits revolving around the crane conservation theme. In turn, the zapovednik demonstrates its appreciation for local support and recognizes those who have made outstanding conservation achievements.

Long-term crane and stork conservation requires mutual efforts of all countries where these birds breed, winter, or migrate. In recent years, Khingansky Zapovednik has actively collaborated with a number of conservation organizations concerned with the birds' fate - the International Crane Foundation, the American Association of Zoos, the University of Tokyo, and the University of Seoul. With the support of these organizations, the zapovednik embarked on a study to trace crane and stork movements by satellite in order to obtain new and accurate information on these species. In 1992, zapovednik researchers tagged a white-naped crane with satellite transmitters and tracked its flight to wintering grounds in Japan. Thanks to assistance rendered by the Wild Birds Society and Yamasina Research Institute (both in Japan) in 1993, 10 more red-crowned and white-napped cranes were tagged, and their migration routes monitored throughout Japan and China. More recently, in 1998 and 1999 researchers thoroughly traced the migration of two oriental white storks to their wintering grounds along the Yangtze River in southeastern China.

Khingansky Zapovednik invites visitors to share in its efforts to conserve an undisturbed and priceless natural area, invaluable for saving the cranes. Easily accessible by rail and for very reasonable rates, visitors can see rare semi-wild cranes up close in their natural habitat. Tourists can take excursions through East Asian steppe, Manchurian forest, and Siberian taiga ecosystems. Lodging is available in homes and in guest houses at the reserve. Contact the zapovednik headquarters to arrange your stay in advance.


Zapovedniks of the USSR: Zapovedniks of the Far East. Mysl publishing agency. Moscow, 1985.

Darman, Y.A. and V.A. Andronov. The oriental white stork and other birds of Amur Oblast (brochure in Russian). MP "RIO." Blagoveshensk, Russia, 1998.

Greshnevikov, Anatoliy. Cranes out of Extinction. EkosInfom. Moscow, Russia, 1997.

Smirenski, S.M., S.V. Vinter, and V.A. Andronov. Birds of the Khingansky State Nature Reserve (leaflet in English). Amur Basin Project. Socio-Ecological Union, 1992.

Text by Vladimir Andronov, former Director of Khingansky Zapovednik. Additional information, translation, and editing provided by Stephanie Hitztaler and Laura Williams.

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