The canyon of the upper Charyn river, in the high-mountain (1,600-1,800 m) Zhalanash valley, is near the north-eastern end of the Kungei Alatau ridge. The territory extends from the junction of the Shet-Merke and Orta-Merke rivers, along the Charyn river for 7 km. It includes the canyon with its branches, limited by the Kuluktau mountain slopes to the east and a field road going along the river from the west. The total width of the territory is about 1 km. The depth of the rock canyon is up to 100 m, with an additional 100 m of steep grassy slopes.
The area is interesting due to a combination of species of different landscapes and it is unique because of the only known colony of Cinereous Vultures in Kazakhstan. There is also a colony of 4-5 pairs of Gyps himalayensis, and the nests of Aquila chrysaetos, Ciconia nigra and Gypaetus barbatus have being found here too, together with breeding pairs of Falco pelegrinoides, F. naumanni, F.tinnunculus, Buteo rufinus, Circaetus gallicus, Falco subbuteo, Milvus migrans and Corvus corax. Other typical species are: Alauda arvensis, Anthus campestris, Riparia rupestris, Monticola solitarius, M. saxatilis, Oenanthe pleshanka, Sylvia communis, Coracias garrulus, Lanius phoenicuroides, Carpodacus erythrinus, Emberiza bruniceps, E. buchanani, E. stewarti, E. cia, E. leucocephala etc.
Non-bird biodiversity: Of large mammals, Capra sibirica, Vulpes vulpes and Canis lupus are observed here. Rodents are common. Reptiles are: Agkistrodon halis, Ablepharus alaicus. Typical grass of the pastures - Festuca sulcata, in the upper part of the area towards the mountains - tall motley grass. Typical bushes are: Rosa sp., Spirea sp., Cerasus tianschanica, Lonicera sp., Juniperus turkestanica, Berberis sp. In the hollows there are single trees of Crataegus sp., along the river there is a narrow strip of Populus diversifolia, in the upper part of the IBA there are some Picea schrenkiana and Populus tremola.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Grazing is not a problem, only a moderate disturbance factor. The real threat is the plan to construct a water reservoir downstream along the river which could lead to complete loss of the habitat.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Regular annual monitoring of the IBA has been carried out since 2002 within the framework of the project "Status of vultures in Kazakhstan" (T.Katzner, S.Sklyarenko, with support of WCS)(Sklyarenko et al., 2002, 2003)
Habitat and land use
About half of the area - grassy slopes - is used as pasture for cattle, but mainly sheep, on a moderate scale. These are a good source of food for vultures.
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Upper Charyn. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 21/04/2021.