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Unique Biosphere Reserve in Askania-Nova

Askania-Nova is the oldest steppe reserve in the world, founded in 1898 by Friedrich Falz-Fein in the south of Ukraine, in Kherson region. This great Biosphere reserve is rightfully considered one of seven natural wonders of Ukraine. It also belongs to the top hundred of the most noted protected areas of our planet.

The Monument to Friedrich Falz-Fein
The Monument to Friedrich Falz-Fein

Young Friedrich started to construct first aviaries for birds and animals when he was only 11.People called him �the Askanian Darvin�. Falz-Fein's childish hobby grew to the work of his life: impressive zoo and beautiful arboretum were created by his efforts. However, the most outstanding work of Baron Friedrich Falz-Fein was creation of the unique natural reserve in feather grass steppe.

Later, after visiting dozen of zoos and botanical gardens around the world Falz-Fein implemented the newest techniques of animal breeding. To carry on his experiments he consulted with leading scientists on the selection of domestic animals, as well as acclimatization and breeding of rare species. So, in the middle of the 19th century Askania-Nova has become the third-large private zoo in Europe.


In 1919, after Socialist Revolution Askania sanctuary was nationalized and transformed first to the center of crossbreeding and acclimatization of animals, later to the institute of steppe livestock research. However, the three main parts of the reserve: zoological garden, arboretum and largest in Europe plot of virgin feather grass steppe with wild animals remained unchanged.


In 1984 Askania-Nova sanctuary got the status of a biosphere reserve and has been listed in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO since then. It is the oldest steppe reserve on our planet and the largest one in Europe. Its current area equals to 33,307.6 hectares. Askania Natural Reserve has rich collection of flora and fauna, both domestic and brought from different parts of the world. Today there are more than 500 species of grass and flowers in the sanctuary, 85 of which are native.


Here you can feast your eyes on the plants, which have disappeared on European and Asian grasslands during the last two centuries, but keep growing in Askania: feather grass, wild tulips, wild onion, cornflower and others. The steppe is especially picturesque in April, May and June. Askania-Nova hosts more than 2500 species of animals, 69 of which are listed in the Red Data Book of Ukraine and twelve in the international list of the protected animals. Here reside typical representatives of the steppe landscape. There are more than 1155 insects in the rich grass. There are 18 kinds of mammals, in different seasons one can observe more than 270 kinds of birds, 170 of which stay here for nesting.


The vastness of Askania-Nova is a home for zebras, South American camels, Indian and African antelopes, deer, llamas, Scottish ponies, Przewalski horses, American buffaloes, Kafr buffaloes, saigas and many other animals. All of them are representatives not only of different continents, but also of different climatic zones. Nevertheless, they could perfectly adapt to the conditions of the Ukrainian steppe.


The birds that nest in the territory of Askania-Nova or stop here during seasonal migrations are struck by their variety: white and black swans, flamingos, cranes, bustards, gray partridges, steppe eagle. In the aviary you can also see African ostriches, emu, pheasants, peacocks, steppe eagles, crowned cranes, parrots and other birds.


Elena Krivova, interpreter, guide, translator in Kherson and all over Ukraine


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