Eco-tourism in the nature reserve of Khakassia

In early August Elizaveta Levitskaya, correspondent for RBTH visited Lake Itkul in Hakasia to find out about life in the reserve. In between talking to zoologists and patrolling the lake, she was able to visit the mystical mountains and catch sight of the picturesque outcome of a man-made accident.

Lake Itkul in Khakassia Reserve is located in the steppes of Khakassia about 150 km from the city of Abakan. It was designated a reserve in 1999, when amateur scientists proved that the lake lies on the migration routes of rare birds and that its banks are teeming with endangered plants
The director of Khakassia Reserve, Viktor Nepomnyaschy, officially opens the new visitor center. The occasion was attended by representatives of the Republic of khakassia, students, and reporters.
The opening of the visitor center was timed to coincide with a three-day seminar on rare species of animals. Pictured is one of the participants, Sergei Istomov, an employee of the science department, with the "passport" of a snow leopard. Every animal "caught" by a camera trap has such a passport.
Camera traps greatly facilitate the work of the zoologists. They enabled them to discover that Sayano-Shushenskoe Reserve is home to the snow leopard. Before that, no one knew that these animals inhabit the territory.
Khakassia Reserve is actively developing eco-tourism. At Lake Itkul, visitors can do volunteer work or rent a bicycle and ride along the ornithological routes or flora trails.
A crew of inspectors patrols the reserve around the clock. In the evening, they make a detour around the lake. The 37-km road around the lake takes about three hours — the inspectors stop at all the viewing spots from where the reserve is "on the palm of the hand".
During the day and at dawn, the inspectors usually carry out a "water raid." While patrolling the water area, they often encounter poaching networks.
Not far from Lake Itkul is the Sunduki mountain ridge. It is a popular place among archaeologists, shamans, and fans of trekking. The ridge is named after the highest peak, which resembles the shape of a treasure chest (sunduk in Russian).
Ancient pictograms can be found on virtually all of the eight peaks. Local shamans believe that these drawings mark the sites of important energy points, for which reason they come here on festival days to to perform sacred rites.
Ribbons are usually festooned in Khakassia in honor of the shaman festivals. They must be absolutely new.
Another place not far from Lake Itkul is Tuimsky Mine. Tungsten, copper, and molybdenum were extracted there until 1954. Particles of molybdenum can still be found on the approach to the mine.
In 1954, rather than deepen the mine, the decision was take to expand it upwards. As a result, it collapsed and mining operations ceased. The earthquakes that followed led to the formation of the Tuimsky chasm. The edge of the abyss is now a bungee jumping site. Jumpers get 100 meters of free fall.
The weather in Khakassia is changeable. But almost every evening ends in a fiery sunset.

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