“Saylyugemsky” National Park has been organized in the Kosh-Agachsky District of the Altai Republic, in the centre of the Altai-Sayan mountainous country, only recently. The decision to create it was made in 2010; and the work began in 2013.
However, the idea of the formation of this protected area is very old – for the first time it was proposed by the eminent geographer Semyonov-Tyan-Shansky in 1917.
This is a unique natural region of Russia at the border with Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan. It is characterized by a high level of biological diversity, that is, there is a huge number of plant and animal species here, including rare and endangered ones. The National Park occupies an area of 118,380 hectares divided into three clusters: Saylyugem (34,400 hectares) and Ulandryk (3,250 hectares) located close to each other on the slope of the Saylyugem Ridge, near the Mongolian border, and Argut (80,730 hectares) on the spurs of the Katunsky and Severo-Chuisky ridges, near the border with Kazakhstan. The first two clusters are the lands where people have long and actively hunted, gathered plants, grazed cattle, etc. By the way, they are home to the famous Pallas's Cat – the wildcat that is extremely fluffy and cute, it has enchanted the world with its image. The hard-to-reach Argut cluster is limited by the mountains of the Severo-Chuisky Ridge, the Katunsky Ridge and the watershed of the rivers of Yungur and Karagem, on the contrary, is a part of almost pristine nature. The National Park is engaged in nature conservation, environmental and education and research activities. First of all, they protect the largest group of snow leopards in the Altai living in the valley of the Argut River, the Red Book endangered Altai mountain sheep - argali and the Siberian mountain goat (Alpine ibex).
There are about 10-15 snow leopards in the Saylyugemsky Park, and it is a quarter of the total number of snow leopards living in the Altai (the only place in Russia where they are found). Mountain goat, also known as Alpine ibex, is their prey. The Red Book of the Altai enlists also the Saylyugem population of brown bears.
The following sights are located in the district of the park:
- Natural monuments of federal significance: Dzhumalinsky and Buguzunsky springs, Ustuu-Gimatskaya (Yustigimatskaya) cave-temple, Chagan-Uzunskaya erratic boulder, as well as the geological section of coal-bearing sediments of Kosh-Agachskaya formation and Chagan-Uzunskie stromatolites;
- the ridges of Saylyugem, Yuzhno-Chuisky, Severo-Chuisky, Katunsky; - the glaciers: Sophiysky, Taldurinskiy, Bolshoi Aktru, Maly Aktru;
-UNESCO World Heritage sites - the Ukok plateau where the monuments of the Scythian epoch are located, unique flora and fauna;
- the rivers: Argut, Shavla, Karagem, Karagemsky Rush on the river of Argut (a five-kilometer canyon), Chuya;
- the burial mound complexes of the plateau of Ukok, Chuiskaya and Kuraiskaya steppes, petroglyphic complexes of Elangash and Dzhuramal, Yustydsky archaeological complex, Tarkhatinskaya ancient observatory, runic inscriptions of Kurgak, Kyzyl-Kabak, Zhalgys-Tobe.
The History Museum of the Kazakhs of Chuiskaya Steppe is open in the village of Zhana-Aul. There is another museum in the administration of the Dzhazator village and a local history museum in the village of Kokorya.
Author: Anna Dorozhkina