Mount Aktau

Site description (2006 baseline):

Site location and context
Aktau mountain (974 m) is located in the Tamditau mountains in the central part of the Kyzylkum desert. It is the highest point in the desert area between the Amudariya and Sirdariya rivers. Steep slopes, cut by gorges, make it inaccessible for people and cattle. Therefore despite its proximity to large settlements it is seldom visited by people. The northeast foothills are 6-8 km from the regional center Tamdi city. In the western foothills is a winter hut which is sometimes visited by shepherds. The mountain is occasionally visited by hunters after Alectoris chukar and Ovis ammon. In summer the area is visited by tourists from Zarafshan city located 35 km to the west. The gorges of of the maountain have well-developed shrubby vegetation, and there are some springs and rain pits. Aktau is located in the center of the 70 km long Tamditau mountain chain and has a concentration of the main representatives of mountain fauna. Being a very ancient formation, Aktau mountain is a habitat for many partly endemic species of flora and invertebrates. Although only a few sites have been formally proposed under the A3 biome-restricted criteria (for biome CA04b Eurasian Desert and Semi-desert), many of the IBAs in the Kyzylkum Desert region support populations of biome-restricted species and, effectively, form a network of sites throughout the area.

Key biodiversity
Apart from the rare species that the site supports, Aktau has a unique ornithological value because of the presence of isolated populations of several species nesting to the south in the Pamiro-Alay mountains and found in the Kyzylkum only here: Sitta tephronota, Sylvia hortensis and Emberiza buchanani. Additionally, Rhodopechys sanguinea and Montifringilla nivalis have been recorded outside the breeding season. The complex of nesting birds at Aktau is the most representative of the birds of the desert low mountains of the Central Kyzylkum. Wheatears are especially rich – 5 species in three colour morphs, plus Scotocerca inquieta, Lanius phoenicuroides and Bucanetes mongolicus. In the mountains Alectoris chukar is numerous.

Non-bird biodiversity: There is a relic population of Ovis ammon severtzovi, which is possibly a full species. The relic areas of natural habitat support Hystrix indica and Microtus sp., well isolated from the main part of their natural ranges. Other mammals of note include Gazella subgutturosa subgutturosa and possibly Felis manul. Of reptiles, there are numerous species of Gekkonidae; of amphibians, Bufo viridis is numerous and its precise taxonomy is not yet established. Aktau mountain has no less than ten endemic species of plants and numerous endemic species of insects, but the invertebrate fauna is very poorly known.

Habitat and land use
There are many rock gorges with well-developed shrub and, in some places, trees. There are no trails on the top of the mountain and access is very difficult. Impressive, almost vertical, rock facess, providing nest sites for large birds of prey, are completely inaccessible without special equipment. On the plains bordering Aktau mountain there are many colonies of rodents, in some years reaching very high numbers. There are many cattle breeding farmsteads and cattle are grazed all year round.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The northeast fooothills of Aktau are situated 6-8 km from the regional center of Tamdi city; and in the western fooothills is a winter hut which is sometimes visited by shepherds. The mountain is occasionally visited by hunters in search of Alectoris chukar and Ovis ammon, while in summer tourists from Zarafshan city located 35 km to the west visit.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
There was a proposal in the literature and mass media for the creation of an Aktau protected area but this was never implemented.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Mount Aktau. Downloaded from on 03/12/2023.