Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative

Large landscape-scale steppe grassland conservation in Kazakhstan

Daniel Rosengren

In 2006, the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative was founded to help conserve and enhance the grassland landscapes of Kazakhstan, and in doing so restore the abundance of the iconic saiga antelopes. Since the formation of the Initiative, saiga antelope populations in Kazakhstan have made a remarkable recovery from less than 50,000 in 2005 to over 1,300,000 in 2022.

Why are collaborative projects like Altyn Dala so important?

“CCI was founded with the vision to foster and catalyse innovative collaboration between conservation organisations, on the premise that proximity, investment and knowledge-exchange will enhance efforts to restore global biodiversity and build essential capacity.

The Altyn Dala project, being recognized by the UN today, is testament to the value of CCI, benefiting from extensive and ongoing collaboration between BirdLife International, FFI, IUCN’s Red List Unit, the RSPB, TRAFFIC and the Masters in Conservation Leadership. Everyone involved is playing to their strengths and adding enormous value to this ambitious initiative. As part of a growing list of collaborative projects, doesn’t Altyn Dala just go to show that CCI’s vision is absolutely right?”

– Mark Day, Head of the Kazakhstan Steppe Conservation Programme at the RSPB

The Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK, part of BirdLife International) is the lead organisation for the project, with financial and technical assistance from Fauna and Flora International (FFI), Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), working in partnership with the Government of Kazakhstan Committee for Forestry and Wildlife, part of the Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources.

Altyn Dala Named as One of the UN's Ten “World Restoration Flagships”

13th December, 2022

The United Nations have announced their 10 World Restoration Flagship projects at the COP 15 biodiversity conference, shining the spotlight on Altyn Dala as one of the recipients of the award.

Full Story Here

Founded in response to the plight of the saiga antelope, an IUCN Critically Endangered species, the project is based across the species’ roaming ranges of the Kazakh steppes and deserts, spanning an area of 75 million hectares. Visible from space, a series of connected protected areas conserves the habitat for the saiga antelope and other globally important wildlife.

Stars over Altyn Dala Kazakh landscape

The camp in the area near Andasaiskiy nature Sanctuary (Zakaznik) at night. The lights in the horizon are harvesting machines working all night to harvest the wheat. Kazakhstan. ©Daniel Rosengren

Having recently celebrated the designation of a new 657,450 hectare protected area in western Kazakhstan, conservation efforts so far have enabled saiga antelope numbers to bounce back after previously being threatened with extinction. Thanks to the efforts of this collaborative Initiative, the numbers have dramatically risen from less than 40,000 individuals in 2005 to 1.32 million now roaming the steppes of Kazakhstan.

Saiga in Altyn Dala

Saiga in Altyn Dala © Albert Salemgareyev

These amazing figures now mean that Kazakhstan supports more than 95% of the global population of saiga antelope, with the steppes also providing a home for other important wildlife such as ground squirrels, larks and iconic steppe eagles. What’s more, as the project progresses, it continues to provide jobs for local people and enhance the understanding of the unique habitats and wildlife found in Kazakhstan through research such as satellite tracking.

If you’d like more information on the project please do visit their website:

Photography credits to: Daniel Rosengren, Albert Salemgareyev, and Rob Field