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Location Turkmenistan, Balkan
Central coordinates 53o 16.00' East  39o 20.23' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii
Area 29,752 ha
Year of IBA assessment 2005

BirdLife Central Asia Programme (BirdLife Direct Action Programme)

Site description The IBA is situated in the Turkmenbashy district of the Balkan region and extends from 70 km to the south of Turkmenbashy city to 10 km to the south of Hazar city. The site is a coastal strip (up to 5 km wide) in the western and northern parts of the Southern Cheleken Bay, and covers Garakel, Heles and Ordekli Bays. Garakel Bay includes a settlement where there are two small landing stages for bulk-oil tankers. The population of Garakyol is engaged in fishery and hunting. There is also a tourist base “Heles”.

Key Biodiversity The avifauna includes not less than 280 species, of which 240 (86%) are passage-wintering birds, including 120 (43%) which are waterbirds, representing 46 and 23% respectively of the avifauna of Central Asia. Passeriformes are the most numerous (96 species), followed by Haematopodidae (45), Anseriformes (28), Falconiformes (27) and Laridae (16). Most typical on migration are coots and ducks (Netta rufina, Aythya ferina, Anas platyrhynchos, Aythya fuligula, Aythya marila, Anas penelope, etc.), plus waders, gulls and terns. The IBA is located on a major flyway along the east coast of the Caspian Sea. In spring there is a high turnover rate of birds. Migration begins in the middle of March and ends at the end of April. The autumn migration shows several peaks and lasts from the end of August to the beginning and middle of November. The following species listed in the Red Data Book of Turkmenistan (1999) have been recorded: Platalea leucorodia, Phoenicopterus roseus, Anthropoides virgo, Buteo buteo, Pandion haliaetus, Haliaeetus leucoryphus, Falco peregrinus, Circaetus gallicus, Burhinus oedicnemus, and also the non-migratory - Aquila chrysaetos, Falco cherrug and Bubo bubo. There are also records of the globally threatened Vanellus gregarius and Aquila heliaca. Criterion А1 is applicable for Oxyura leucocephala, Anser erythropus, Aythya nyroca and Marmaronetta angustrostris. Other A1 species recorded but where data is not currently available to justify their designation are Falco naumanni, Aquila heliaca, Branta ruficollis, Grus leucogeranus and Numenius tenuirostris. The site also supports wintering and migrating Phoenicopterus roseus, Falco cherrug, Falco peregrinus, Haliaeetus albicilla, Haliaeetus leucoryphus and Larus ichthyaetus. Criterion A4iii applies as the IBA holds concentrations of more than 20,000 passage-wintering waterfowl and waterbirds of 10 to 20 species.

Non-bird biodiversity: The fauna includes 40 species of mammals, half of which are rodents (21 species), the others are predators (8), chiropterans (5), insectivores (4), ungulates (2). Reptiles are represented by 30 species, the most significant are water (Natrix natrix) and grass (Natrix tessellata) snakes and the Central Asian agama (Agama sanguinolenta). The flora includes more than 370 species of higher plants. The vegetation of the coast is represented by halophytic and salsolas communities. Sandy areas are fixed by sparse vegetation: ephedra, a few species of Calligonum, Salsola richteri and saxaul (Haloxylon persicum) which is very rare. Carex physodes also occurs sparsely together with scattered ephemerals.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus winter  2001-2005  101 individuals  good  A1  Vulnerable 
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca winter  2001-2005  233 individuals  good  A1  Near Threatened 
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula winter  2001-2005  27-45,993 individuals  good  A4i  Least Concern 
White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala winter  2001-2005  26 individuals  good  A1  Endangered 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  2001  min 20,000 individuals  medium  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2005 high not assessed not assessed
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Biological resource use hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - intentional use (species being assessed is the target) happening now some of area/population (10-49%) very rapid to severe deterioration high
Climate change and severe weather storms and floods happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - unspecified species happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Pollution garbage & solid waste happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Shrubland   5%
Desert   5%
Wetlands (inland)   20%
Sea   65%
Artificial - terrestrial   5%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture 5%
military 70%
Notes: border zone
tourism/recreation 15%
urban/industrial/transport 10%

Protection status Not protected.

References Rustamov A.K., Vasilev V.I. (1976) Natural reserves of USSR (Soviet national ornithological Reserve Krasnovodskiy). – Мoscow. Znanie. (in Russian). Aganbegyan, A.G. (1988) Gara-bogaz-gol yesterday, today, tomorrow. - Ashkhabad: Ylym. (in Russian). Atamuradov, H.I. (1999)Red Data Book of Turkmenistan. - Т.1. - Ashkhabad: Turkmenistan. (in Russian). Rajapov, M. Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for Turkmenistan. Ashgabat, 2002. (in Turkmen, Russian, English). Rajapov, M. Turkmenistan. Country Study on the Status of Biodiversity.Ashgabat, 2002. (in Turkmen, Russian, English).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: South Cheleken Bay. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016

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