The site is located 250 km to the south of the major regional centre of Ust-Kamenogorsk, 110-160 km to the east-east-south of Ayagoz and about 90 km to the west of Zaisan Lake.
The site consists principally of a collection of moderately elevated hilly ranges representing a subdivision of the highland mountains on the south-western rim of the Zaisan hollow. The main body of hills is divided by the Kargoba river valley and is further divided by the valleys of the Bazar and Bugaz rivers to form three separate blocks - Shubartobe, Zhagalbaily and Tuhyemoinak (together with the hilly Karasholak and Zharma) mountains. The north-eastern slope forms a 3 km long steep cliff above the smooth Zaisan hollow with a gradient differential of 250-400 m. The eastern slope faces a broad (7-9 km wide) depression that separates the highlands from the north-eastern branches of the Tarbagatai mountain range and outer range of the East Kazakhstan Hilly Lands. The smoothly undulating plain at the base of the north-eastern slope is also included in the IBA. The inner parts of the site are generally flat. Apart from the aforementioned rivers, the area lacks permanently running watercourses.
The flora of the site consists of steppe vegetation complexes. Artemisia- turf-grasses and motley herbage associations common to dry steppe and semi-desert are prevalent, with the dominant grasses represented by Stipa lessingiana, S. orientalis, S. sareptana and S. caucasica. The area also has a well-developed growth of xerophyte bushes occurring either in sparse scatterings or compact stands and patches of scrub with a few hardy species such as Spiraea hypericifolia, Caragana pygmea, Astragalus arbuscula and Ephedra equisetina. The sediment-rich valleys of the inner area valleys and the outer fringes often contain a plentiful growth of Achnatherum splendens mixed with Spiraea hypericifolia. Woody vegetation is only present as strips of riverine forest beside the major river courses and consist, predominantly, of belts of Poplar sp. with frequent tall thickets of Salix sp, Lonicera sp. and Rosa sp. Dense areas of scrub alternate with glades containing bogs and meadows. The parts of the range facing Lake Zaisan have, on the whole, a less humid floristic composition.
Apart from a few scattered herdsmen’s winter quarters or summer folds’, 10+ km from one another, there are no significantly populated areas close to the site. The main land use is grazing and although the local population is not wealthy, there are substantial numbers of livestock. More than half of former agricultural fields in the depressions of the Karaozek and Bulansukbulak have been abandoned for more than decade. There is only one main road through the site, running from Ayagoz to Zaisan, and most of the area is almost inaccessible. In 2007 only the Zhagalbaily mountains were surveyed in full.
The site is most important for its small breeding population of Falco cherrug (A1) and good population of Falco naumanni. There are also a few other threatened species present whose numbers do not reach the stipulated threshold figures (Circus macrourus, Grus virgo). Several species, either breeding, on passage or vagrants, included in the Red Data Book of Kazakhstan occur: Falco cherrug, Aquila nipalensis, Aquila chrysaetos, Grus virgo and Bubo bubo.
The area is also important for breeding Falco tinnunculus.
Non-bird biodiversity: Otocolobus manul is believed to be present in the majority of mountains.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Currently there appear to be no negative impacts from grazing or agricultural activities and it is thought that even moderate increases in the coming decade will not have a detrimental effect on the site and its wildlife. It is possible that Falco cherrug numbers may be lower than optimal due to past illegal trapping activities.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Since only part of the area has been surveyed thoroughly, additional survey and monitoring work is required.
Habitat and land use
The major land use is grazing and livestock numbers have been reduced to an optimal level in recent years, though there is some localised over-grazing. About 6% of the area had been converted to arable in former times but nowadays the majority of this is abandoned.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Zhagalbayly and Tuyemoynak Hills. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 21/03/2023.