The Kenshektau mountains occupy the central part of the north-eastern slope of the Northern (Bol’shoi) Karatau Mountain range situated in the Suzak district of the South-Kazakhstan region close to the settlement of Atime (Abai) and 35-40 km to the west of the district centre, Chulakkurgan. The mountains are a picturesque rocky massif of marble and limestone and are a conspicuous feature in the expanse of adjoining lowland which is the south-western edge of the Moiynkum desert. Along the ridge forming the main watershed of the Kenshektau formation runs the border of the Karatau State Nature Reserve. In the north-east the IBA boundary follows the edge of the foothills, in the north-west it comes close to the highest peak of the Karatau Range – Bessaz mountain (Mynzhylky massif) - and the south-east boundary is marked by the course of Koshkarata river.
The Kenshektau was formed by the prizing open and vertical buckling of sedimentary plates by tectonic processes. Some cliffs have the form of sheer rock faces or tapering pyramids rising to several hundred metres. This peculiar geomorphological feature stretches for 10 km along the side of the Karatau Mountain range and extends, on average, for 5 km from the ridge to the foothills along the eastern slope. A few feeble seasonal streams run in several deeply cut gorges. The vegetation is predominantly xerophyte associations of grasses and dwarf plants often supplemented, especially on the northern slopes, by a plentiful growth of hardy bushes and, infrequently, impenetrable woody thickets comprised mostly of wild apple and pear trees, maples and hawthorn. The highly varied and rugged relief creates abundant opportunities for the safe nesting of many bird species. The harsh environs of the arid rocky gorges, coupled with the presence of an exuberant growth of resilient scrub, are key factors influencing the local avifauna.
The species composition of local avifauna reflects the singularity of the area’s landscape consisting of three major habitats: bare rocks, screes and scrubland. The site is most important for its medium-sized breeding population of Gyps fulvus which numbers 30 pairs. Falco naumanni also breeds though its numbers have almost halved over the last 15 years. The diverse array of large raptors and scavengers includes a few species of global or national rRegional) conservation concern (Aegypius monachus, Gypaetus barbatus, Neophron percnopterus, Aquila chrysaetos, Circaetus gallicus and Bubo bubo). The site is the most northerly known breeding location of Apus melba. It also supports several biome-restricted species.
Non-bird biodiversity: The site is important botanically as it holds many rare endemic species including Dryopteris mindshelkensis and Aquilegia karataviensis. There are also seberal regionally endangered plants including Tulipa alberti and Tulipa greigii. In certain seasons, the grass-covered northern slope of the Karatau Range attracts foraging ungulates such as Sus scrofa, Capreolus capreolus and Ovis ammon.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
The full length of the Kenshektau Mountain range borders on its south-western side the recently established Karatau(sky) State Nature Reserve. The fact that the area has been largely excluded from the protected area is short-sighted.
Habitat and land use
Sheep, cattle and horse grazing occurs along the fringes of the mountain mountain complex.
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Kenshektau Mountains. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 26/10/2021.