The Dangara massif lies between the Vakhsh and Pyandj rivers and is situated between the Vakhsh range and Kizilsu river valley at an altitude of 550-570 m above sea level, near Kulyab. There is a road and railway in the middle of the massif connecting Kulyab with Kurgantube and the capital, Dushanbe.
The IBA is centred on Dangara mountain and covers 40,000 hectares of gentle hills, richly vegetated in spring. There are no trees. Before development, the massif had been used as autumn-winter pastures. Since construction of the Nurec hydroelectric power station and Nurec water reservoir (about 70 km long and from 800-900m to 3-4km wide), there has been the possibility of irrigating the massif and now 20-25% of virgin and long-fallow land has been developed.
Development has influenced the region's avifauna. At the beginning of the 20th century Otis tarda, Chlamydotis undulata and Burhinus oedicnemus were common, and Tetrax tetrax, Pterocles orientalis and Pterocles alchata wintered. In the middle of the 20th century they ceased to breed and Tetrax tetrax stopped wintering. Regular migrations of bustards, Grus virgo and Sandgrouse were recorded until the 1960-70s. IBA research in 2003-2006 only found single birds of Tetrax tetrax, Otis tarda, Chlamydotis undulata, Burhinus oedicnemus, Pterocles orientalis and Pterocles alchata.
Wintering birds include Anser anser, Tadorna ferruginea, Grus grus, Columba livia, Circus cyaneus, Circus macrourus, Accipiter nisus, Buteo buteo, Buteo rufinus, Hieraeetus pennatus, Falco cherrug, Falco pelegrinoides, Falco peregrinus and Pterocles orientalis. Wintering flocks of Melanocorypha yeltoniensis reach several tens of thousands of individuals.
Breeding birds include Apus apus, Apus melba, Merops apiaster, Merops persicus, Coracias garrulus, Upupa epops, Corvus corax, Galerida cristata, Alauda arvensis, Melanocorypha calandra, Hirundo rustica, Anthus spinoletta, Motacilla alba, Saxicola caprata and Oenanthe picata. Falco tinnunculus, Athene noctua, Otis scops and Bubo bubo breed in caves and loess niches along the Garauty river.
The development of cereal crops and legumes led to increasing numbers of waterbirds and large granivorous birds. Large numbers of Anseriformes, Gruiformes, Charadriiformes and Lariformes were found on the site and near Selbursay water reservoir. There were more than 18,000 birds (Anser anser, Tadorna ferruginea, Anas penelope, Anas strepera, Anas platyrhynchos, Aythya ferina, Aythya fuligula, Mergus merganser, Grus grus and others) on the IBA on 14-15 January 2006.
Selbursay water reservoir, situated in the south-east of the Dangara massif, is one of the important ecological factors playing a key role in the wintering, migration and nesting of several hundreds of thousands of waterbirds, cranes, gulls, diurnal raptors and passerines.
Non-bird biodiversity: Fish: Schisothorax intermedius, Cyprinius carpio and Silurus glanis are found in the Kyzylsu and Toirsu rivers. Schisothorax intermedius and Cyprinius carpio can also be found in Selbursay water reservoir.
Amphibia: Rana ridibunda and Bufo viridis.
Reptilia: : Testudo horsfieldi, Gymnodactylus caspius, Agama sanguinolenta, Varanus griseus, Ophisaurus apodus, Eremias regeli, Ablepharus brandti, Eumeoces schneideri, Typhlops vermicularis, Ablepharus deserti, Eryx tataricus, Coluber ravergieri, Naja oxiana and Vipera lebetina.
Mammals: there were many Gazella subgutturosa on the open spaces of the massif until the end of the 20th century, now they are absent. Ovis vignei and Capra falconeri can be found on the mountainsides of the Vaksh range and in the foothills of Sarsaryak mountain. All of these species are included in the Red Data Book of Tajikistan. Sus scrofa has increased in number for the last 20 years. Predators include Canis lupus, Vulpes vulpes, Hyaena hyaena, Vormela peregusna and Felis chaus. Felis pardus occurred until the middle of the 20th century. Hystrix leucura, Rattus turkestanicus (Rattus rattoides), Nesokia indica, Ellobius talpinus, Rhombomys opimus and Lepus tolai also occur.
The IBA’s flora is typical semi-desert, mainly herbaceous. The vegetation begins to grow from the middle of February, flowering in early spring (March-April) and beginning to die back from the middle of May. Poa bulbosa and Carex pachystylis are found in the restricted bluegrass-sedge semi-savanna zone. There are Salsola richteri, Haloxylon persicum and Danthonia forsskalii in the sandy foothills. Ephemeral grasses are mainly Psilurus aristatus and Parapholis incurva, with Phlomis bucharica in the higher areas. Tamarix and Rosa occur in the depressions between the hills. After the majority of species have died back, the only species to be found are the xerophytic Alhagi kirghisorum and some species of Artemisia.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Economic activity disturbs wintering and migrating birds.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Nature conservation measures are carried out by the state service.
There are no protected areas in the IBA.
Habitat and land use
Cereals, melons, gourds, cotton and forage crops are cultivated. There are also orchards and winter-spring pastures.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Dangara massif. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 21/03/2023.