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Established: 1932
881,238 ha (8812 km2)
Buffer Zone:

Contact information:
Erofeev, Sergey Petrovich, Director

Russia 659564, Altai Republic,
Turachaksky raion, p. Yailyu

Tel: (7-388-43) 2-64-86, 2-28-35

The Altai region of south-western Siberia is one of the oldest areas of human settlement in all of Russia and Asia. Ancient tribes of Scythian and Turkic herdsmen and hunters left cultural monuments over the millennia. But the rocky peaks and alpine lakes and rivers of the Altai and Sayan mountains eluded man's imprint over time. These pristine and spectacular mountain landscapes are fully protected today by the Altaisky Zapovednik. Teletskoye Lake - the jewel of Western Siberia - snakes through peaks and valleys of this nature reserve, offering one of the last great sources of pure water on Earth. Majestic stands of Siberian pine - some trees reaching several hundred years of age - coat mountain slopes in a think green blanket, offering food and shelter to the birds and animals of the Siberian "taiga," or boreal forest.

Photo © 1998 Rob Badger

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

Articles featuring this nature reserve in Russian Conservation News journal:

Altaisky zapovednik, RCN #26, page 25, 2001


Images of Altai-Sayansky
Click on each photo to see a large version.

© 1998 Rob Badger

More than 1000 lakes break up the mountainous terrain.

© 1998 Igor Shpilenok

Red lichen ornaments large boulders in the reserve.

© 1998 Igor Shpilenok

Space trash descends on the remote mountains from a nearby rocket launch site.

© 1998 Rob Badger

The Altai, Sayan, and Tuvian mountain systems converge in Altaisky Zapovednik.

© 1998 Rob Badger

Mixed conifer forests line the shores of Teletskoye Lake.

© 1998
Rob Badger

Teletskoye Lake holds an enormous reserve of fresh water.

© 1998 Rob Badger

Many explorers have described the magnificent Teletskoye Lake in their writings.

© 1998 Rob Badger

Korbu Waterfall, near Teletskoye Lake, is popular among visitors to the region.


Zapovednik Facts:

The marked vertical shift from grassy steppes at lower elevations to alpine tundra in the high mountains of Altaisky Zapovednik creates a variety of ecological niches for animal life. Wildlife abounds even above the treeline, where Daurian and Altai pikas (Ochotona spp.) scramble about the rocky terrain. The small hare-like critters prepare hay for the winter, stacking their food under trees or boulders. Siberian wapiti (Cervus elaphus sibirica), wild reindeer (Rangiferus tarandus), and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), in search of scarce winter food, sometimes raid the pika's hard-earned stores. Wolverine (Gulo gulo), wolf (Canus lupis), and lynx (Felix lynx) scavenge for food in the mountainous terrain. Tiny musk deer (Mochus moschiferus) seek shelter from these predators in coniferous forests, while Siberian ibex (Capra sibirica) and rare argali sheep (Ovis ammon) scale steep cliff faces of the Chulyshman Valley and Shapshalsky mountain range. Each year scientists in the zapovednik find tracks of the extremely rare and endangered snow leopard (Uncia uncia). Brown bears (Ursus arctos) roam the shores of Teletskoye Lake looking for insects and other food in the spring, gradually moving up to the high mountains by late summer, where they feed on fresh grasses just appearing from under retreating snowfields. In all, 70 species of mammals are found in the zapovednik.

More than 300 species of birds have been observed in the reserve, while 180 species nest here annually. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), green-winged teal (Anas crecca), common goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) paddle around lakes throughout the zapovednik, and horned grebe (Podiceps auritus) inhabits ponds in the south. Seven species of woodpeckers rattle the trees overhead, the most common of which is the great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major). The sad cry of the rare black-throated loon (Gavia arctica) can be heard on most of the large lakes in the reserve. Three of the birds rare to the Altai region nest only in the zapovednik - great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), whooper swan (Cygnus cygnus), and white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla). Other rare birds like golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Altai snowcock (Tetraogallus altaicus), black stork (Ciconia nigra), Northern eagle owl (Bubo bubo), and boreal owl (Aegolius funereus) also find refuge in the zapovednik.

Eight species of amphibians inhabit Altaisky Zapovednik, including the ubiquitous moor frog (Rana terrestris). Although the species has an enormous range - from France to beyond Lake Baikal - nowhere is the frog found at elevations above 800 meters. In the Altai Mountains, however, the moor frog thrives from 400-1800 m above sea level. Hoards of blue moor frog males gather in shallow oxbow lakes in the reserve in the spring to mate.

The many lakes and rivers in Altaisky Zapovednik are home to 15 native species of fish, the most common of which is grayling (Thymallus spp.). The largest fish in the salmon family found in the reserve is the taimen (Hucho). Small goby fish (Neogobius spp.) feed on invertebrates, and in turn become prey to burbot (Lota lota), a bottom-dweller found as deep as 100 meters in Teletskoye Lake.


The range of climatic conditions and soil types found at different altitudes in the Altaisky Zapovednik means that an entire spectrum of vegetation types - steppe, wetlands, coniferous forests, and alpine meadows - is represented in the reserve. Colorful flowers bloom during the entire warm season: the yellow and purple stars of gagea (Gagea) and gosling (Pulsatilla patens) dazzle meadows in March, gradually changing to a yellow, pink, purple, and white rainbow of flowers from the Asteraceae, Fabaceae, and Caryophyllaceae families in August and September.

Dry and grassy steppes, found primarily on the shores of Teletskoye Lake and in the Chulyshman River Valley, sprout feather grass (Stipa spp.), sheep's fescue (Festuca valesiaca), and xerophilious forbs. Woodlands, covering 45% of the reserve's territory, consist mainly of Siberian fir (Abies sibirica) in the north and Siberian pine (Pinus sibirica) and Siberian larch (Larix sibirica) in the central and southern parts of the reserve. Siberian pine, which can tolerate cool temperatures and various soil conditions, is the dominant tree species in the reserve, growing even at high altitudes. Under the forest canopy, bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), cowberry (V. vitus-idaea), red currant (Ribes spp.), oriental spiraea (Spiraea media), and bird cherry (Padus avium) offer fragrant flowers and sweet fruits.

Subalpine vegetation, characterized by tall grass meadows dotted with dwarf aspen (Populus tremula) and birch (Betula rotundifolia), covers 14% of the zapovednik. Geraniums (Geranium albiflorum), Siberian columbine (Aquilegia sibirica), and hellebore (Veratrum lobelianum) are just a few of the plant species that thrive in mountain meadows. Alpine forb and tundra vegetation begins to dominate the terrain above 1800-1900 m. Landscapes unsuitable for vegetation, such as boulder fields, rocky cliffs, and snowfields account for more than 20% of the reserve's territory.

Zapovednik scientists have identified 200 species of aquatic plants, 500 species of lichens, 250 species of mosses, 1460 vascular plants from 102 families, as well as 73 species introduced by humans. Lobaria pulmonaria, a species of lichen listed in the Russian Red Book, is commonly found growing on tree trunks in the reserve. The largest plant families represented in the zapovednik are asters (Asteraceae), grasses (Gramineae), sedges and reeds (Carex), rose (Rosidaceae), and bean (Fabaceae). Almost all of the species of orchids (Orchidaceae - 26) and ferns (Polypodiophyta - 35) found in the Altai region are represented in the reserve. Rare and endemic plants protected in the zapovednik include Isoetes lacustris, Brunnera sibirica, Erythronium sibiricum, and two rare species of monkshod (Aconitum spp.).

Geographical Features

Altaisky Zapovednik protects the Chulymash River basin and uplands, the south-facing slope of the Korbu Mountain range, and the southwest slope of the Shapshalsky Mountain range - all part of the southern Siberia mountain system. The zapovednik stretches 250 km in an elongated shape with an average width of 35 km. The territory is surrounded by high mountain ranges in the North, South, and East; the Chulyshan and Karakem Rivers and Teletskoye Lake form the border to the West. Elevations in the reserve range from 429 m to 3399 m above sea level. The highest point in the reserve is the Toshkalykaya Peak (3507 m) in the Shapshalsky range. Sharp-toothed peaks, narrow ranges, and steep rock faces with boulder fields at their feet are typical features of the Altai mountains. The major rock types in the reserve are granite, gneiss, diorite, and quartz, with some crystal limestone and marble on the northern shore of Teletskoye Lake.

Rivers and lakes are an integral part of the mountain landscape in Altaisky Zapovednik. Mountain rivers have spectacular cascades and large terraces - more than 10 rivers in the zapovednik have waterfalls from six to 60 meters high. The highest waterfall in the Altai Region - Nepristupny ("Unapproachable") Waterfall - on the Chulche River, sends torrents of water down a breath-taking 150 m drop among huge slabs of gneiss. The emerald green and sparkling blue waters of more than 1190 lakes (>1 ha) are scattered throughout the alpine landscape. Teletskoye Lake, one of the largest and most beautiful lakes in southern Siberia, stretches 78 km in a narrow blue ribbon pressed between the Korbu and Altyntu mountain ranges. Although the area of the lake is not great (223 km2 ), the deep reservoir holds 40 billion cubic meters of crystal clear water, making it one of the largest fresh water lakes in the world and an important water supply for much of Western Siberia.

Continental climate conditions in the Altaisky Zapovednik mean that the summers are warm and the winters are cold. In the northern part of the zapovednik, the summers are warm and humid, but large amounts of snow accumulate during the mild winters. In the southern portion of the zapovednik, winters are exceptionally harsh, with temperatures dropping to -50°C , while hot summer temperatures can reach +30°C . The southern part of the reserve gets three to four times more precipitation than in the north.

Conservation Status

While many of the great Siberian Rivers have been polluted by mining, oil exploration, and industrial production, the inaccessibility of the Altai mountains has meant that much of the forests and rivers in the region have remained pristine. However, some adjoining lands to the reserve suffer from overgrazing, logging, and farming activities.

Until 1976, Altaisky Zapovednik was the only strictly protected nature reserve in the whole of Western Siberia. Even so, Altaisky Zapovednik endured substantial territorial losses when the reserve was closed twice as a result of political whims - first from 1951-1957 and again from 1962-1967. The original zapovednik protected an enormous 13,000 km2 expanse of land, but by the second time the reserve was reopened, the territory had been reduced to 8,638 km2. During the closures, populations of sable, reindeer, and other game were damaged by hunting, and forests near Teletskoye Lake were logged. Today, to ensure protection of the argali sheep, the Altai snowcock, and certain endemic species of plants, the western border of the zapovednik should be expanded to include the upper reaches of the Bashkaus River (600 km2 ), as well as certain steppe lands on the right bank of the Chulyshman River.

An odd source of pollution in the zapovednik comes from the Baikonur rocket launch site in neighboring Kazakhstan. When rockets are launched into space, empty fuel containers and other parts drop from the sky. As a result, some of the most beautiful and remote landscapes on Earth are littered with space trash.


Katunsky Zapovednik is another zapovednik in the Altai-Sayansky Bioreigon. For information and photographs from this reserve, CLICK HERE.

Text compiled and translated by Laura Williams, based on materials provided by the zapovednik staff.

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