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Vodny (Water) Island
October 30, 2013 22:18


(Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2360117)

Vodny (Water) Island is a part of the Rostov Nature Reserve that is made up of four separate territories running west to east in the Orlovsky and Remontny districts of Rostov Province in southwestern Russia. The sections of the reserve (Ostrovnoy, Starikovsky, Krasny Partizansky, and Tsagan-khag), separated by 5-25 kilometers, are islands in the Manych-Gudilo Reservoir or adjacent lands. Water Island is 12 kilometers long and 4 kilometers wide, and it is non-residential. Infrastructure is not rich there: a small brick house and a system of iron drinkers, constructed by the workers of the Rostov Nature Reserve.

Green hills of the Rostov Nature Reserve are home to about 50 mammals, many of which are small herbivores and the animals that prey on them. Jerboa (Allactaga jaculus), grey hamster (Cricetulus migratorius), pygmy ground squirrel (Spermophilus pygmaeus), and European hare (Lepus europaeus) seek shelter in the wide-open steppe in underground dens to escape predation by Corsac fox (Vulpes corsac), wolf (Canis lupus), and raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides).  Rostov Nature Reserve is situated along one of the three major migratory routes for birds in Russia. The inaccessible islands of the reserve provide perfect nesting and stopover grounds for ducks and other waterfowl. 

 Vodny Island is surrounded by the saline waters of the Manych-Gudilo Reservoir. It is the largest Island in the Manych-Gudilo Reservoir. It formed in 1953, when construction of the Nevinnomysky Canal transformed the depth of the Manych River.

After the construction of the Nevinnomysky Canal local landscape started to change rapidly. The water came all of a sudden and cut several hundred sheep and a dozen horses from the herd. At first, the shepherds were trying to transport sheep caught in a trap on the boats, but then left this idea, determined to pick up the rest of animals when water freezes. But unlike sheep, horses did not go back to local people.

In 1950 the farmers realized the real value of the island. 5,000 sheep and a few dozen horses could live there from spring to autumn, the wolves could not come to the shore, and food for the horses was free. A special ferry that ran twice a day was built specially for horses’ transportation. However, soon one problem appeared: because of the disruption of the hydrological regime, the water started to gain salt quickly. According to local residents, to the mid-1950s, it was impossible to drink this kind of water. That is why State Farm decided to drill a self-flowing artesian there that gave water to sheep and horses. Last sheep and, therefore, people left the island in the late 1980s. Since that time only some horses have lived there. Young people moved to the cities, the old have passed away or left too. Now vacant houses are populated by refugees from the North Caucasus.

Today the nature reserve maintains herd numbers at about 100-150 animals by capturing some of the young horses. The rest of the creatures remain wild and are afforded protection by the strict rules of the Rostov Nature Reserve.

The Rostov Nature Reserve protects some of the last virgin steppes on Earth, remnants of open grassland that have never been plowed. A herd of wild horses inhabits the largest island in the protected area, filling the hooves of now diminished or extinct large herbivores that used to maintain steppe ecosystems. The horses are hearty and never leave the island, even when frozen ice forms a bridge to the mainland. The wild horses have taken on the role of saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica) and tarpan – the ancestral wild horse, large herbivores that historically maintained steppe habitats. Saiga numbers diminished rapidly in the last part of the 20th century, while the tarpan is now extinct in the wild.  

 


 


 




Author: Anna Dorozhkina

Tags: Travel to Russia Rostov Oblast Vodny Island   

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