The IBA is a fragmented wetland complex in the lowest reaches of the Kushum river and occupies part of the left bank of the Ural river, approximately 90 km to the west of main course. It is positioned in the centre of the Dangaly district of the West-Kazakhstan region.
The site is formed by flooding from the Kushum river. The majority of the area consists of shallow stretches of water overgrown by dense reedbeds. Only the peripheral waterbodies (Edelsor-1 and Edelsor-2, for example) appear to be devoid of extensive vegetation. At present, due to naturally changing water cycles, exacerbated by man-made deflection of water through a network of artificial canals, a substantial part of the reedbeds are unflooded. The system contains a few major lakes (Byrkazan, Oryskopa, Sholokhovskoye, Khankol and Zhaltyrkol) that are included in the Zhaltyrkulsky (Zhaltyrkol) State Nature Reserve (Zakaznik). The fragments of dry land between the waterbodies are composed of plots of common to northern semi-desert with sparse vegetation on loamy and sandy soils. The flora is restricted to predominantly halophytes (70% representation), with motley-herbage-Artemisia complexes gradually replaced in hollows by patches of annual Salsola.
The area was visited twice in the last two years. In April 2006 - interesting records included Ardea cinerea – 15 pairs, Philomachus pugnax – 3,300 individuals, Cygnus olor - 22 pairs, and confirmed breeding by two species of raptor: Haliaeetus albicilla (1 nest) and Buteo rufinus (2 nests). In November 2007, more detailed observations were made and confirmed that the site is an important stop-over location for many thousands of waterfowl and shorebirds.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Beside fires, the most serious natural threat for the lakes’ waterbirds are occasional drastic drying-up of the shallows in years of severe drought. Hunting, recreational and other activities, including livestock grazing, have a minimal impact on migrating and breeding birds. The large expanse of submerged and waterlogged reedbeds create ideal conditions for nesting and moulting.
The core of the IBA is the Zhaltyrkol State Nature Reserve (Zakaznik). This protected area encloses several of the largest lakes, corresponding to 40% of the Reserve’s area.
Habitat and land use
On the periphery of the lake system there are three decently populated villages, the largest of which – Zhangala- is the district centre. The others are Karmanovka and Zhanatalap. Within the core of the wetland complex (in the Reserve) there is a scattering of small-scale sheep- and cattle-raising facilities: herdsmen’s winter-quarters together with cowsheds and sheep-folds (in total 10 functional units). Livestock consists of 1,000 head of cattle, 1,000 head of sheep and several dozen horses. Many of the lakes are assigned to various hunting societies and are used extensively for sport hunting and fishing.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Kushum Lakes. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 01/04/2023.