Taimyr Nature Reserves: Putorana Plateau mystery and land of returned muskox

Russia’s biggest nature reserve – the Taimyr Nature Reserves – is a great tourist attraction. The Reserves’ office told about a camp, which is organized now at the Lama Lake, and about new tourist routes they will offer soon. The Reserves’ Director Viktor Matasov says the Arctic near Krasnoyarsk may attract up to 80,000 tourists a year.

Russia’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Sergei Donskoi also stressed the importance of developing ecology tourism in compliance with the current legislation and if all the reserves are protected properly. According to Matasov, the reserves will develop necessary infrastructures to attract tourists. “Tourism may become a driver for development of the region,” he said. A key territory here is the Putorana Plateau, a UNESCO world natural heritage site of 2.5 million hectares.

In spring 2013, three northern Siberian reserves: Putorana, Big Arctic and Taimyr were merged into one – its area is almost 12 million hectares.

The Big Arctic Reserve is the biggest in Russia and Eurasia. It was organized in 1993 – between two seas of the Arctic Ocean: the Kara and the Laptev Seas. The Putorana Reserve was organized in 1988 – it is also one of the biggest in Russia and it is situated beyond the Polar Circle, in the midland of a big mountainous area – Putorana Plateau. The Taimyr Reserve, which territory is entirely in the area of permafrost, was organized in 1979.

The mysterious world of Putorana Plateau

The office’s representative Ekaterina Lisovskaya told about new eco-routes near the Lama Lake. This year, jointly with the Norilsk Diocese, the reserve organized an Orthodox Ecology Camp. For many years, this area has been a popular recreational site for residents of Norilsk. Experts say about 10,000 people every summer come to the Lakes Maloye, Lama, and Glubokoye.
“Lama is the gates to Putorana, may routes begin from this lake, and now we are developing them,” she said.

The Putorana Plateau is a huge mountainous area in the north of the Krasnoyarsk territory. Its size may be compared with the area the UK is taking. Legends of many northern ethnic groups are connected with it. They say, the legendary Gold Baba is hidden somewhere here – it is an idol made of gold, a Siberian pagan shrine, after which many researchers and adventures had been hunting. It is guarded by “wild” Evenks.

The Putorana Plateau hides many lakes, rivers and canyons. This is the place of the biggest number of waterfalls in Russia. The lakes are isolated from the rest world, and fish in every lake is different.

“It is a nature reserve, and to Putorana’s central parts only helicopter tours with our specialists may be possible,” she continued. “There are so many things to see here. A very popular tour begins at the Big Irkingdinsky Waterfall. It is a very scenic place, Putorana’s landmark, where you can see both the mountains, and the rivers and waterfalls.”

Tourists also see the confluence of the Yaktali and Dulismar Rivers, where they come into two waterfalls. “On the way back, we visit the Maya-Achin River, which at the length of 42 kilometers has 47 hurdles, nine of which are waterfalls,” she added.

Land of bighorn sheep

The Putorana Plateau is crossed by migration routes of the wild reindeer. Here live wolves, bears, moose and lynx, and many other animals. And besides, the director said, here lives a unique subspecies of bighorn sheep. This population developed in isolation for more than 15,000 years.

The bighorn sheep is in the Red Books (of preserved species) of Russia and of the Krasnoyarsk territory. The animals are adopted phenomenally to the extreme conditions, and the main threat to them comes from poachers. In 1988, the Putorana nature reserve was organized to protect the bighorn sheep. Scientists now plan extending the reserve’s borders, as many bighorn sheep live eastwards and become victims of poachers.

Muskoxen return

In July, a big scientific expedition began on Taimyr. Scientists on motor boats, off-road vehicles, hydro plane and helicopter explore the fauna there. They want to register totally the white bears and the marine mammals, to count all reindeer and muskoxen, whom people helped to return to Siberia’s north after many centuries of their absence there.

Muskoxen lived on Taimyr more than two thousand years ago, which is evident from archeological revelations. The herds were there next to mammoths and furry rhinoceros. The climate changes caused loss of those animals, but 20 centuries later muskoxen returned to Taimyr.

A few herd were brought from Canada and from the United States in the mid-1970s. In 1982, only 66 animals lived along the Bikada River in eastern Taimyr. Nowadays, they have spread the huge areas of the Arctic peninsula. The animals also come to the Putorana mountains. As of 2012, the population now is 9,000, and by 2020 it may grow to 25030 thousand, and further on – to 200,000.

According to Head of the Taimyr Reserves’ Scientific Department Leonid Kolpaschikov, Taimyr has become a place for accumulating the breeding material, so that later on muskoxen are placed in the country’s other regions. The animals, born in the northern Krasnoyarsk territory, were released in a few districts in Yakutia and in the Polar Urals. In Yakutia now lives the population of about one thousand muskoxen, which grew from the imported animals.

Scientific research

Taimyr’s world is dynamic and changing. The legendary pink seagull, which formerly lived between Indigirka and Kolyma, now makes nests on the peninsula. For a few decades now, it is a home for white eider. Muskrats are seen along the Khantay Bay. After experiments of Khrushchev’s times, the northern seas and rivers are rich in salmon (Pacific salmon).

In the Pyasina River, salmon is the second biggest population after chir (round-nose whitefish). Scientists plan to have a monitoring to realize how the newcomer from the east influences the background fish like various species of whitefish or the Arctic char.

No less attention will be paid to the biggest predators in the Russian Arctic – the polar bears. In 2018, they will put collars on a few females to watch their migration inside Taimyr and to see their areal.

“We have bought the collars already, and we plan putting them on four-five females to view their migration,” the Reserves’ director said.

The mission will take place in spring, as the bears awake from the winter sleep. For that, the scientists will charter a vessel, which will take them to the designated area. Traditionally, collars are put only on female polar bears: male bears have a different shape of head and besides they continue growing all life long. Putting collars on big, permanently growing, necks of male bears is of no sense.