The site lies in the southern part of the Ubagan-Ishym watershed (the Tyguntyugur Hollow)and comprises a group of five lakes - Alabota, Koibagar Tyuntyugur, Zhanshura and Biyesoigan - at the base of a semi-distinct escarpment forming the transition of the Tyuntyugurt plateau onto the Kostanai plain. The site covers the waterbody complex situated in Karasu district 140 km to the south-east of the regional centre of Kostanai. The district centre of Koibagar is located 3 km inland of the north-western shore of Koibagar lake, at the mouth of the Karasu river. The northern part of the lakes lie 50 km from the major republican Kostanai-Kokshetau motorway and there is an extension of the Sarykol-Karasu-Koibagar highway 4 km from the north-western boundary of the lake system.
The lakes are freshwater and rely on melt-water for their water supply. They are also subject to a reversible hydrological regime subject to a perennial rhythm. All of the lakes have large areas of reed varying depending on water levels and relief from thin fringes and patches to dense reedbeds. The Tyuntyugurt plateau is drained by several rivers running in an east-west direction and discharging into the range of the Hollow. The course of the largest river is 95 km.
Koibagar lake is set in an isolated hollow encircled by an unbroken wall of clayey bluffs varying in height from 3 to 10 m. The lake covers approximately 96 km2, and is approximately 17.8 x 9.1 km, with a shoreline length of 49.2 km. The bottom of the lake is smooth and rarely exceeds depths of 1.3-1.4 m. The shore is covered by an intermittent belt of reeds (Phragmites australis) 400-500 m thick. Tyuntyugur lake covers an area of 54.3 km2. On three sides there are low cliffs with the fourth side being gently sloping. The lake is encircled by the reedbeds 40-100 m deep. Zhanshra lake covers an area of 15.7 km2 but 80-90% of it is covered by a mosaic of Typha angustifolia and Phragmites australis. The shallowest lakes of the group - Alabota and Biyesoigan – cover 2,194 ha. The average depths seldom exceed 0.8 m. In some years, insufficient spring water supplies cause them to dry-up. Both lakes are almost totally covered by reed. In the lower lying parts of the Hollow there are wet meadows dominated by Elytrigia repens.
Before the steppe in the region was ploughed in the mid 1950s, the adjacent steppe area consisted of motley turf-grass associations including Stipa zalesskii, St. lessingiana, Festuca valesiaca, Salvia stepposa and Seseli ledebourii. Nowadays all of the land adjoining the lakes is arable.
There are about 18 settlements within a 30 km radius of the lakes, with an overall ppopulation of 13,941 persons. Two settlements, totalling 818 people, are situated on the shores of Lakes Koibagar and Tyuntygur.
About 95 species of waterbirds occur at the site, 39 of them breeding. The most numerous are geese, ducks and Coots which in autumn can easily number 500,000 individuals. The species composition and numbers are subject to annual variations related to the perennial pattern of water regime dynamics. Sixteen species of Anseriformes breed. The wide variety of biotopes and favourable feeding conditions make the lake system very attractive for non-breeding waterfowl, especially for moulting. In 1998, the moulting flocks consisted mostly of Anser anser, Anas strepera, Anas clypeata and Aythya ferina. In early June 2000 the total number of waterfowl on the main lakes was 30-50,000, including 4-5,000 Anser anser, while on the shores of Tyuntyugur, there were 12-15,000 waders principally Calidris minuta, Calidris alpinа and Philomachus pugnax.
Ducks and geese are very numerous during spring migration, as also are northern waders, especially Phalaropus lobatus. There appears to be a high turnover rate of birds at this time of year. In early May 1997 Koibagar, Tyuntyugur and Biyesigan lakes held 15,000 geese, including 12,267 Anser albifrons, 665 Anser erythropus, 1,193 Branta ruficollis and several hundred Anser anser.
Autumn passage lasts a little more than 2 months. The main goose migration occcurs in the first half of October. Observations undertaken here in 1996-1999 revealed numbers varying from 48 to 80,000. On 4-8 October 1997 the lakes held 170,000 geese. It is estimated that each autumn the site supports up to 500,000 geese.
15 species listed in the Red Data Book of Kazakhstan have been recorded at the site. Breeding species are Cygnus cygnus, Grus grus and, possibly, Oxyura leucocephala and Aythya nyroca. Passage species include Cygnus columbianus, Grus grus, Anser erythropus, Branta ruficollis, Haliaeetus albicilla and Aquila heliaca. In summer the site is frequented by the roving groups of Pelecanus onocrotalus, Pelecanus crispus and Larus ichthyaetus. Phoenicopterus roseus occurs occasionally. On the adjacent steppe and farmland there are isolated observations of Grus virgo, Tetrax tetrax and Vanellus gregarius all of which may possibly breed. Falco vespertinus nests in the forest belts surrounding the fields, and Circus macrourus and Glareola nordmannii near to the lakes. Grus leucogeranus has been recorded from the vicinities of Alabota and Zhanshura lakes.
Non-bird biodiversity: Fish are represented by 8-10 species, with the most variable and stable being found in Koibagar. Mammals include 30 species, of which the majority are rodents. Of these the most numerous are two hydrophilic species: Arvicola terrestris and Ondatra zibetica. In recent years the reedbeds of the lakes have been colonised by Sus scrofa.
In former times the steppe area adjacent to the Hollow consisted of motley turf-grass associations (Stipa lessingiana, St. zalesskii, Herbae stepposa) but now most areas have been converted to arable. Two relict plant species can still be found - Lemna trisulca and Utricularia vulgaris. Nuphar luteum occurs in the lower reaches of the Tuntyugur river; the commonest elements of the shore-zone vegetation are Scirpus lacustris and Typha angustifolia; in some wet places there are willow-beds (Salix cinerea, S. viminalis).
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Presently, the most serious pressures on the lakes are fishing and hunting. The excessive use of motorboats causes considerable disturbance during nesting and migration periods. Direct mortality of birds (diving ducks, coots and grebes) in fishing nets is also an issue. Illegal hunting remains a hazard.
Uncontrolled stubble burning, with fires spreading to neighbouring reedbeds is frequent. Over-grazing is beginning to impact on the shore-lake ecosystems. The relative intensification of agriculture threatens the purity of the waters by accidental drainage of fertilizers and pesticides.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
In October 1996, within the programme dedicated to the investigation of the flyways of Anser erythropus, a joint Finnish-Kazakh ornithological expedition carried out regular autumn observations of geese migrating through the vast area of lakes in the Region, including the Koibagar-Tyntyugur Complex.
In 2000, specialists from Naurzum Reserve in collaboration with experts from the Botanic Institute, participating in a WWF Project to develop a Network of Protected Important Wetlands of the Kostanai Region, recorded the species composition and numbers of birds
nesting or moulting, the general condition of the lakes' habitats, and vegetation growth particulars.
Since 2005, monitoring of migrating waterfowl in the region has been conducted within the UNEP/GEF Project “Development of Migratory Routes and Wetland Habitats with regard to Conservation of Grus leucogeranus and other Waterbirds in Asia”. Within this project the ecosystems of Tyuntyugur-Zhanshura Lakes were mapped. Additionally, the Koibagar complex was included in the network of Cranes’ preserve territories of Western and Central Asia. The rationale of this action will be prepared in 2008.
On the proposal of the WWF Project working group and by decree of the regional territorial administration on forestry and bio-resources (№ 12 от 14.03.2001) the Koibagar-Tyuntyugur Lake Systems has been included in the Roster of the most important wetland areas of the region.
No official status and the lakes are included in the area assigned to a hunting society.
However, the Koibagar-Tyuntyugur Lake System is included in the List of Natural Environment Objects of special scientific, ecological and cultural importance (the RK government decree №416 of 03.05.2005). By a separate ruling it has been given the Status of State Natural Heritage Object ( №932 от 28.09.2006).
Habitat and land use
The territory of Tyuntyugur plateau belongs to the group of regional lands traditionally essential for the local wheat production industry. In 1990 the proportion of former pristine land converted to agriculture reached 80%. In the area of the Koibagar-Tyuntyugur lake system location the plots of arable land surround it on all sides, often intruding onto the slopes of the main hollow. The lush vegetation of the lowland terrace’s flood-meadows is being used to meet the needs of the gradually resuscitating cattle-raising industry. The various small-scale commercial activities, situated close by the shores of the lakes, require the perpetual intake of water. In 1999 the total volume of extracted water was 17,7000 cubic meters.
Two major lakes, Koibagar in particular, are being used as traditional fisheries. In the mid 1990s, the annual fish catch, for Koibagar alone, reached 900 hundredweight. Despite the influence of the cyclic filling and draining of the lakes the success of fishing has remained constant and high in recent years.
In the 1990s the lakes of the Tyuntyugur hollow had acquired a distinction as some of the best game-containing grounds of the region for goose hunting. In 1998 alone, at Koibagar and Tyuntyugur lakes official counts reported 2,365 waterfowl having been shot. The region maintains a network of satisfactory asphalt roads, with several of them running in the proximity of the lake complex enhancing its accessibility for hunters or holiday-makers.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Koybagar-Tyuntyugur Lake System. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 19/01/2022.