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Research on No Man's Land Part I

Trip ReportJames Hipkiss

In the period 10 August - 1 September, 2010, 9 speleologists from 6 Bulgarian caving clubs(Caving,Vertilend, Helictit, Sofia,Academic, Sofia and Aida, Haskovo and Mrak,Etropole) - members of Bulgarian Federation of Speleology, together with 5 Kyrgyz cavers carriedout joint speleological expedition in the area of Ridge Kokshaaltoo - Mountain Tien Shan in SouthKyrgyzstan (Kyrgizia). Under the leadership of Kamen Bonev, for the first time in the history of Speleology in Bulgaria, Bulgarian cavers searched and explored new caves as high altitude. Theexpedition team consists of specialists in various fields of scientific knowledge - geology, biology,geodesy, geographic information systems and others. This allowed all sites to be mapped and to prepare a complete documentation on them.

An important part of the program was devoted togeological studies and surveying as geo-morphological assessment of potential of the karst area. Biospeleogical and zoological studies was made also. During the expedition were found 71 species of animals. Of these 70 species are reported for the first time around. Five species are found in caves. Fifteen species are established for the first time in Central Asia or in Kyrgyzstan. Ten species are supposed to be new to science and yet they describe. This indicates that the area of the ridge Kokshaaltoo much of an interesting zoological and bio-speleological perspective and have a future profound study.

Cave fauna Material was collected from seven caves. It includes spiders, opiliones, flies, mosquitoes, wood-lice and collembola. There were no highly specialised for life underground cave dwellers - troglobites. Most species are adventitious or using caves for shelter during adverse development periods of the year (mosquitoes and flies) or during hibernation (bears). Only part of the spiders and collembolas partially adapted to underground living species - troglofiles. They are collected only in the entry of or in caves with small length, where there are wet areas and where breed and develop. In the inland areas of the caves are only identified species using them for shelter during hibernation (bears, mosquitoes) or adventitious animals there. Observations during the expedition showed that conditions in the caves of this altitude are very favorable for the development of cave fauna. Due to the low temperatures in all the major caves the water is frozen in the form of compact masses of ice or ice crystals. This has led to a substrate with very low humidity i. e. dry. This prevents mold, fungi or decay of the available organic matter (feces of bears, grass for bedding, hair etc. in the caves, but it is the basis of food chains in cave ecosystems.The highest cave with cave fauna found in the time of this expedition is 3649 m. From there it was collected and one probably new to science species of spider species Lepthyphanthes. Successful results are due to the excellent logistical support of our Kirgizian colleagues from Asia Mountains Group under the direction of the veteran of Kirgizian speleology Sergei Dudashvili.

During the collaboration established close friendly relations between the two teams. Both sides have expressed mutual interest for the implementation of new joint initiatives in the field of speleology and multidisciplinary research on karst terrains.