Kazakhstan – RFI
Hi all, I will be in Kazakhstan next month for work (Almaty, in the SE corner near Kyrgyzstan). Its a lousy time for most mammals I imagine but I’d like to spend a day or two looking for stuff. A Marbled Polecat for instance would be nice and I know they are in the desert near Almaty. Does anyone have any advice or can recommend any operators/people who might be able to take me out for a day or two?
And are there many mammals of interest in the city itself?
To think about it, I can ask if any of the readers of my blog lives in Almaty. When exactly are you going there?
Thanks Vladimir – I will be there around 9 to 17 November, with a bit of time at the weekend to head out of the city Jon
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I don’t know anybody there, but I saw my first and only marbled polecat at Kurdai Pass (the place where you cross the Kyrgyz border on the main highway to Bishkek). That was before the USSR fell apart. With the new border in place, the pass might be a problematic place to walk around. It used to have urial sheep, too (a few miles away from the highway), but they’ve probably been eaten by border guards by now.
Going north, you hit nice sagebrush deserts within a few hours. Steppe wildcat, various jerboas/gerbils and desert bat spp. are possible there. But you generally have to get to Lake Balkhash or Betpak-Dala Desert to see really cool stuff like desert dormouse, wolf, saiga, corsac fox, Pallas’ cat, steppe lemming and pygmy jerboas.
Immediately south of the city is a ski resort called Medeo. You can take a bus there and hike up the road into spruce forests and alpine meadows. Tien Shan red-backed vole used to be common there, and other montane stuff (such as Tien Shan birch mouse) is possible.
Southeast from the city is Almaty Nature Reserve (zapovednik in Russian) which used to have snow leopard, brown bear, Siberian ibex etc., but I don’t know what the situation there is – haven’t been there for 20+ years.
The city should have grey hamster, some bats, and possibly Turkestan rat in the suburbs, but I don’t remember seeing anything of interest there.