The IBA is in the rustic Karasaz province of the Raiymbek district of the Almaty region between the villages of Karasaz and Tekes, in the intermontane valley flanked by the Eltchin-Buyryuk and Karatau mountains.
The site is a shallow, saline lake 5 km in length and up to 1,000 m in width. The shoreline is a mixture of muddy shoals or wet meadow plots with slightly raised banks covered with a mosaic of highland valley vegetation. The dry land encircling the waterbody, where it is uncultivated, still supports remant dry steppe vegetation with perennial complexes of xerophytic grasses and wormwoods. There are also scattered alkali plots and numerous aggregations of Lasiagrostis splendens tufts. The shore lacks any form of growth larger than the lush salt-tolerant plants and there are no of woody or scrub species or reedbeds. The lake contains two small islands. Two natural slightly mineralized springs are located at the northern corner of the lake and there is an artesian well on the eastern shore.
The site is important for the large numbers of moulting Tadorna ferruginea it supports and also for significant numbers of Grus grus and Grus virgo. The area is used used by a variety of surface-feeding and diving ducks, gulls and waders for nesting, moulting and on passage. In August 2006, on the lake and its environs, 35 species, including 21 shore- and waterfowl (4,445 specimens in total) were recorded. It is estimated that migratory concentrations regularly number 5-10,000+ waterbirds. The site is alo important for breeding Cygnus cygnus, Podiceps nigricollis and Fulica atra. The modestly sized islets hold colonial nesting gulls, terns and waders. The nearby mountains have national protected Aquila chrysaetos, Falco pelegrinoides and Aquila nipalensis.
Non-bird biodiversity: The area is important for two Central Asian montane amphibians Rana asiatica and Bufo pewzovi. In the nearby mountains Ovis ammon occurs.
Habitat and land use
In the foothills of the neighbouring mountains there are about 6 functioning pastoral units each represented by a sprawl of herdsmen's winter quarters and sheepfold structures. Two separate small-scale farms occupy some of the land on the east, south and western shores of the lake. Annually, from April to November, the area is used as seasonal grazing by people from Sarybastau. In 2006 the plains held 15 herds of sheep (2,700 head), 12 herds of cows (955 head) and 12 groups of horses (475 head). At midday many animals concentrate along the shoreline at the south-eastern corner of the lake. Agriculture in the vicinity was abandoned about 15-20 years ago but abandoned fields can still be seen in the spacious valley to the east of the lake.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Overgrazing is the most severe impact at the site, with livestock numbers increrasing rapidly and now 5 times higher than in former times. It can be expected that in the near future the whole of the south-eastern coast will experience the resurrection of arable farming, with associated infrastructure. The northern shore may become subject to increased recreational pressure as this area contains the most substantial deposits of curative mud that was previously extracted and transported to Almaty’s therapeutic centres. In 2006, at the above location, the foundations of a residential local curative spa was established. Poaching has not been noted in recent years, however it is known that illegal collecting of Rana asiatica for use in Chinese medicine takes place.
The site is unprotected at present but fulfils the criteria for being declared as a Preserve.
The current data on Lake Tuzkol’s avifauna were provided by Berezovikov N.N., Levin A.S. and Karpov F.F. The compilers express their appreciation of the investigative efforts spent by this research group, and for the quality of the data obtained.