A two-day ultra ecomarathon "The Signing Dune – Canyon 2019" to mark the International Biodiversity Day, which is globally celebrated on 22 May, finished at the Charyn State National Nature Park. The ecomarathon started at the Signing Dune in the Altyn Emel State Natural Park on 21 May, and runners ran through beautiful terrains for 250 km till the canyon encountering goitered gazelles, desert cottontail, swans  and even snakes, and finished at Charyn on 22 May.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Kazakh Agriculture Ministry's Forestry and Wildlife Committee, Marat#ON Running Club and the International Snow Leopard Foundation organised the marathon. Its goal was to draw public attention to issues of preserving biological diversity, unique natural landmarks, extinction of snow leopard and unregulated logging of desert poplar and saxaul as as popularising a healthy lifestyle and developing mean ecological tourism.

Over 20 runners of different age and background took part in the marathon, including the members of the Marat#ON Running Club, who share the values of this marathon and its organisers.

At camping places the runners were also involved in collecting litter left by people along the roads and on river embankments. During the two days of the marathon, the runners were exposed to a windy weather, heat, showers and other challenging conditions such as insects, absence of public utilities and mobile connection.

"We are very glad to welcome you at the Charyn National Park. We are proud of natural landmarks in our district such as the canyon and the ash groove, which we have to preserve for our future generations. I congratulate you all on accomplishing your mission," said the governor of Almaty Region's Uigur District, Shukhrat Nurakhunov at the ceremony to awarding marathon runners.

The organisers and participants of the ecomarathon underlined the importance of preserving biological diversity and ecosystems in Kazakhstan.

"I am energnised and overwhelmed with the mission and goal of the marathon. Over the last two days I have seen the beautiful and very various landscapes of the two national parks, and I have become part of the movement to preserve our nature and its dwellers," said one of the marathon runners, Ayakoz Rakhimzhanova.

The UN Development Programme closely cooperates with the Kazakh government to create new protected areas and expand the territories of the existing ones. Under the UNDP's support, 10 protected areas with a total area of 4 963 220 ha have been created. The UNDP supported to build capacity and expand the territory of six protected areas with the total area of 2 388 577 ha. In total, assistance was provided in increasing the ecological network and the network of protected areas in Kazakhstan with the total area of 7 351 797 ha, which accounts for 26 per cent of the territory of all protected areas in the country.

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