The Badhyz State Nature Reserve (zapovednik) is one of the most interesting and spectacular nature protected areas in Central Asia. It is located in south-western Turkmenistan on the border of Mary and Ahal provinces (velayats). The nature reserve was esbaleshed in the time of Soviet Union in 1941. Currently it covers an area of 877 km2 (339 sq mi).
The nature reserve also includes 3 wildlife sanctuaries (zakaznik) established in 1956:
- Çemenebit Sanctuary
- Gyzyljar Sanctuary
- Pulhatyn Sanctuary
Geography and Climate
The landscape of the Badhyz Nature Reserve includes single or groups of foothills with a height of 20 to 200 m:
- The north and west make up the plateaus and hilly ridges of the Gezgyadyk range in the foothills of the Eastern Kopetdag and are deeply dissected, especially in the west, where deep rocky gorges are located.
- In the east, the mountains turn into a hilly plateau with desert steppe.
- In the south, the boundaries of the plateau are formed by the Eroylanduz basin, a salt lake and the Kyzylzhar depression. The soils are sandy with loess-calcareous loams.
The average annual precipitation in the reserve is about 280 mm, the maximum is 420 mm, and the minimum is 130 mm. A short spring is followed by a long, hot summer with 4–5 months of hot weather and slight cool winds.
Flora and Fauna
The territory of the reserve has a combination of unique natural features: relict pistachio savannas, an ancient extinct volcano, a brackish seasonal lake, rocky wastelands, sandy and other types of deserts and semi-deserts. It is home to a significant number of endemic, rare and endangered species of flora and fauna in addition to its high biodiversity.
The Badkhyz State Reserve and its surrounding reserves were created in 1941 with the goal of preserving and restoring the indigenous population of Kulan Equus hemionus and the largest natural pistachio forests in Eurasia, Pistacia badhysi, covering an area of more than 40,000 hectares.
At the time the reserve was founded, the kulan population numbered 250 individuals. At the moment it is 1000-1500 heads, according to various estimates. It is also home to 4,500–5,000 individuals of the gazelle Gazella subgutturosa and up to 1000 individuals of the Afghan urial Ovis orientalis cycloceros and the Turkmen wild goat Capra aegagrus turkmenica.
Other ungulates found in this protected area are goitered gazelle and wild boar. Predators include the red fox, Persian leopard, striped hyena, gray wolf and Asian wildcat. The Asiatic cheetah also lived in the reserve. It has not been recorded in the region since the 1960s, and the spread of individuals from neighboring Iran is hampered by the fenced border between the two countries.