Already at the end of the 19th century, Baron Falz-Fein realised the environmental importance of this unique plot on Europe’s feather grass steppe and set aside a part of his wild steppe land for its own protection. Even after emigrating to the West in 1917, the Falz-Feins followed developments in their former estate, as they cared much about the steppe and its inhabitants.
Today, 11,054 hectares of the reserve are covered with virgin feather grass and looks especially impressive in summer and early autumn. In spring, the reserve becomes carpeted in tulips, irises and hyacinth. More than 400 species of herbs and flowers exist in the Askania-Nova steppe area, 85 of which only grow here and nowhere else.
In 1919, Askania-Nova was proclaimed a national park. Later, the Institute for Acclimatisation and Crossbreeding of Animals was founded in the area. Sheep, cows and pigs more adjusted to the hot steppe climate are still bred here.
But this is not what tourists come looking for: a large part of Askania-Nova is used as grazing land for the animals, which live close to as they would in the wild. With 2,250 species of animals in Askania-Nova, the prospect of having a great photo-safari in Southern Ukraine comes to life! Here, you can see Saiga and Oryx antelopes, American bison and Andean llamas, Shetland ponies and Kudu antelope, African waterbuffalo and zebras, ostriches and blue wildebeests. The pride of the reserve is its numerous herds of Przewalski’s horses, whose breeding started in Askania-Nova back in 1899. More than 150 species of trees and bushes grow in the beautiful park, covering 200 hectares in all. It is also a paradise for ornithologists: swans, flamingos, pheasants, peacocks and peahens, larks, pallid harriers, partridges, bustards and cranes – the total of 270 species of birds live here. Since 1985, the Askania-Nova Biosphere Reserve is listed in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme. Regular excursions are offered in the reserve, including visits to the local zoo and park, horseback riding and minibus tours, and much more.
Today, the oldest heir of the Falz-Fein family is Baron Eduard Oleksandrovych von Falz-Fein (born in 1912), the nephew of the reserve’s founding father. Since 1936, he has been a citizen of Lichtenstein, where he resides now in a villa unsurprisingly called Askania-Nova.
This October, a bronze monument to the founder of the reserve, Baron Friedrich von Falz-Fein, will be inaugurated in the reserve. Another great reason to visit Askania-Nova!