The Ile-Alatau State Natural Park was established following a decree by the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan dated February 22, 1996 .
The park is located on northern slopes of the Zailiiski Alatau, close to the southern capital, Almaty. It is 120 km long from the Chemolgan River in the west to the Turgen River in the east, and 30 km in cross direction.
The park’s area is 202,292 hectares .
The main goals and objectives of the national park are to conserve and restore unique natural complexes and provide people with various recreational activities.
The national park is at 600 to 5,000 m above sea level. The nature in the park includes picturesque forests of Shrenk fir trees and parvofoliate species of Sivers apple trees, hawthorn, wild apricot, Tien Shan ash trees, and other trees and shrubs.
Vegetation in the national park includes more than 1,200 species, and its diversity reflects all of the Northern Tien Shan . The alpine and sub-alpine zones (2,400 to 3,400 m ) are characterized by picturesque meadows with motley grass, sometimes crossed with wonderful alpine sedge moors and moss bogs. Thick juniper shrubs appear a little bit lower.
The shrub and forest belt is located at medium heights of 1,600 to 2,800 m . It is characterized by rich roses, broad-leaved and coniferous forests with edges grown with cereals and motley grass.
The foothills, more known as prilavki, are at 1,400 to 1,600 m . It is a mountainous steppe with rare groves of wild apple trees, apricot trees and aspens. Scientists believe that the low-hill terrains of the Zailiiski Alatau in Semirechye are the place where cultural types of apples originated.
The flora in the national park has a lot of rare and endemic species. The Red Book lists 36 species of herbaceous plants, brushwood and woody plants. They include ancient forms of flowering plants – two species of tulips, one species of iris, and one species of peony. By the way, historians believe that it was the Zailiiski Alatau that brought the tulip to Asia Minor via the Great Silk Road in medieval centuries, and then on to Holland where it is the national flower.
The park’s wildlife is rich and diverse, with more than 1,500 species of invertebrates and 213 species of vertebrates, including 47 species of mammals, 148 species of birds, 8 species of reptiles, 2 species of amphibians, and 8 species of fish.
Most frequent animals in forests and inopen spaces include Siberian deer, roe deer, and Siberian tek ibex up in the rocks. Other common animals are the boar, wolf, fox, badger, and murine rodents.
The vertebrates listed in the Red Book include 13 species of birds: ibisbill (near the mountains streams); falcons (saker, pigeon hawk, barbary falcon); eagles on rocky highlands (Himalayan griffon, bearded vulture, golden eagle, booted eagle, and scavenger vulture); rare passerines (tit-warbler, great rosefinch, blue whistling thrush), and black stork. There are 8 species of mammals. Beasts of prey include the red dog, snow leopard, Pallas’ cat, Central Asian lynx, Tien Shan brown bear, and stone marten. Ungulate animals include argali, and there is also a big southern rodent –Indian porcupine. One of the species of fish sometimes met in the mountains is the Ili snowtrout. Notably, the snow leopard is also listed in the IUCN International Red Book.
Some species of invertebrates (butterflies) are also listed in the red Book, for example, European swallowtail, Tien Shan apollo, delfis, scarce swallowtail, etc.
The park has a few archeological sites which are the histrorical and cultural legacy of the peoples of Kazakhstan: burial mounds of the early iron epoch (in the Turgen Gorge), burial mounds of the Assy Plateau, Saki mounds on the shores of the Yesik (Issyk) River, and medieval sites of ancient settlement: Talkhiz and Turgen.
An ancient road runs along the branches of the Zailiiski Alatau. In the faraway past, it was used for the great transmigration of peoples from Asia to Europe . The Great Silk Road appeared here later on.