The Nature Reserve That's Facing a Threat from Outer SpaceVisit Siberia's Switzerland, a Sanctuary for Endangered Species
The Altai Nature Reserve is a unique UNESCO-protected territory in southeastern Siberia that is one of Russia's most biologically diverse ecosystems. It includes a part of Lake Teletskoye, considered the region's pearl or "mini Baikal."

Altai contains over a thousand lakes. The largest one, Lake Teletskoye, is second in Russia only to Lake Baikal by volume of fresh water. Each year its northern part is covered in ice while its southern part, which is deeper, usually remains ice-free due to relatively warm water flowing in from a river.
Ample mountain peaks tower over the Altai Nature Reserve. A full two-thirds of its territory are covered by high-altitude tundra and prairies. The remaining area is mostly populated by coniferous forests containing larch trees, cedar pines and firs. Being at the intersection of the Altai, Kuznetsk Alatau and Western Sayan and Tuva mountain ranges, the Altai Nature Reserve is no less rich in its abundance of flora and fauna.

The Reserve plays a significant role in preserving rare plant and animal species on the verge of extinction:

  • Plants: Altai Allium, Siberia Trout Lily, Altai Rhubarb, Rare Bedstraw

  • Birds: demoiselle, saker falcon, black vulture, fish hawk

  • Animals: snow leopard and argali, the largest and rarest wild sheep in the world. It can only be found in the Altai Nature Reserve's southern part and, without protection, faces a major threat of extinction.
Unfortunately the Reserve's efforts at saving rare species are hampered by atmospheric pollution, especially from the Proton-M heavy lift launch vehicle that regularly blasts off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in neighboring Kazakhstan. Two-thirds of the Altai Nature Reserve's territory fall within the zone of debris falling from space launches.
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