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The Kazakh Women Felters of Zarshiganak

When life gives you wool, make felt. That was the lesson Kalimash Baimuhanova learned in the difficult years following the Soviet Union’s collapse. The village of Zarshiganak sits on the ironing-board flat steppes of northeastern Kazakhstan. During the USSR, it was a thriving community of shepherd families who worked on the Kalinsky Collective Farm. In…

Apocalypse Paused: Scenes From Soviet-Era “Ghost Farms”

Picture two giant farms: one the size of France; the other the size of Wisconsin. That is how many acres of agricultural land sit fallow in Russia (45 million) and Kazakhstan (35 million).   The 250,000-acre Chilinka Collective Farm, in northern Kazakhstan, was once known as an oasis on the steppes. It was home to 500…

Tazy: Speedy Dog of the Steppes in a Race Against Extinction

“Faster!” Zhylkybai Aga said. The driver increased the truck’s speed to 25 m.p.h. Zhylkybai leaned out the window and whooped at his dog, named Akbakai, who loped alongside the vehicle. The lanky dog was hardly exerting himself. My first impression of Tazy, a Kazakh dog breed, was that it looked like a bag of bones. But now, in…

The (Questionably) Honorable Kazakh Tradition of Livestock Theft

With 2,500 head of livestock, it can be hard to notice when a few go missing. Especially for Dauletgali Zhaitapov, whose business Kaz Horse Mugalzhar LTD operates on 75,000 acres of unfenced rangeland in northern Kazakhstan. During fall roundup, Zhaitapov realized his horse herd was 100 animals short. These weren’t just any horses; they were…

In Kazakhstan, They Eat Horse Meat. Would You?

Kazakhstan is a land where people revere, and eat, horses. Meanwhile, in America (and much of Europe) eating horse meat is taboo. In a blog post for The Plate, I explore these differing attitudes about equus caballus as a protein source.  

Home, Home on the…Steppes?

A great migration is underway in the world of ranching. Cowboys from the United States, Canada, and Australia are taking cattle by the thousands to Russia and Kazakhstan. Why? To help solve major food security problems.

Is “Extinct” Forever? Central Asia’s Caspian Tiger Traverses the Comeback Trail

Comments Off on Is “Extinct” Forever? Central Asia’s Caspian Tiger Traverses the Comeback Trail

I imagine a tiger. He’ll move through the forest and his days Leaving his traces on the mud banks Of a river whose name he doesn’t know. In his world there are no names or past Or future, only the certainty of now. —Jorge Luis Borges, The Other Tiger In reeds tinged red in the…

November 17, 2013: Horse-Riding Across Asia, Roadtripping America With a Canine Copilot and More

This week on National Geographic Weekend, join host Boyd Matson, as we ride 6,000 miles across Central Asia, collect chicken feces to protect bees from wasps, cycle across Iceland, ponder the moose’s plight, and drive to every state with a canine copilot.

Race for Rare Earths in Central Asia

Guest article by Sebastien Peyrouse In this guest article, Dr. Sebastien Peyrouse of George Washington University provides an overview of key developments in rare earth minerals development projects in Central Asia. Dr. Peyrouse participated in the inaugural event of the Rare Earths Research Consortium, at the University of Queensland. Whereas China has decided to reduce…

Save the Saiga: Poachers Responsible for a Dwindling Population

The grasslands of Russia and Kazakhstan are host to an animal that has roamed the earth since the Ice Age, but may soon become extinct: the saiga, a hump-nosed antelope whose population has declined by more than 95 percent since the early 1990s. The critically endangered saiga, which stands just about two feet tall, is in…

As Beautiful as a Spaceport?

Many apologies for the long radio silence. This month I was taking a break from space and immersing myself in the wonders of climate modeling at NCAR, the National Center for Atmospheric Research. I did, however, get to feed my astro-addiction during the evening hours with a copy of Space Tourists, a 2009 Swiss documentary…

Eagles “Tagged” From Fallen Feathers

DNA “fingerprinting” has become a reliable way to identify individual humans or animals. A biological sample such as blood, semen, or hair can be matched to an individual. Eastern imperial eagle chick in Kazahkstan picture courtesy Andrew DeWoody In the world of bird research a DNA match can be made with a feather. Each feather found in…