Plant and animal life

Diorama „Bald peak vegetation. Eastern-Sakhalin Mountains“. A unique exhibit fabricated in 1941 for the Karafuto Governorship museum by Japanese craftsman — Nishio Soodziro, a founder of the «Nishio Biological Models Co. Ltd» (Kyoto, Japan). In August of 2009 restorers with a Japanese Company performed restoration work on the Diorama with the assistance of the Association for Bilateral Relationships between Museums of Northern Regions and Hokkaido Museum. Now in its renovated form the Diorama decorates the Sakhalin Regional Museums Exhibition.


    Isolation due to insular position, extension of Sakhalin and the Kurile islands in meridian direction, mountainous relief, volcanic processes and influence of the Pacific Ocean — were the factors to have formed diversified conditions for development of plant and animal life on comparatively small islands.
Unique natural landscapes were formed by the mother nature on the islands of the Oblast with their unique combinations of the Northern Okhotsk and the South-Manchurian floras. Together with the typical taiga areas animal life representatives the warm-loving animals, such as: amphibians; reptiles; birds and even subtropical species of beetles and butterflies live there. There are some natural areas on Sakhalin and the completely virgin insular systems on the Kurile islands little affected or non-affected at all by the human beings economic activities. Those pristine and very picturesque nooks of the insular natural habitats are biosphere reserves and keepers of the rear and endangered flora and fauna species.
In the museum one may see great specific diversity of the animals common in Sakhalin and the Kurile islands and some animal species which were wiped off the face of the Oblast due to human economic activities.
In a relatively short time period in the Earth history (a little more than 250 years) animal life of several islands became really impoverished. Bones of boar and Japanese deer were found in excavations of the Neolithic sites in the southern Sakhalin. About 150 years ago moose and Far-eastern red deer were exterminated in the Sakhalin island (now they are acclimatized). By 1945, due to intensive deforestation in the southern Sakhalin, sable (now they are back again) and some taiga bird species disappeared. By the early 1950s raccoon dogs in Sakhalin totally disappeared due to intensive hunting pressure (the species has been reinstated at present). By the early XVIII century argali (mountain rams) were exterminated on the Atlasova island, with wolves exterminated on the Paramushir, Shumshu and Kunashir islands and river otters exterminated on the Kunashir island by the early XX century. By 1945 brown bears were exterminated on the Shumshu island. People should keep in mind that insular fauna is more vulnerable. Depletion of the animal species numerical strength on the islands due to hunting or economic activities occur more frequently and takes less time to accomplish due to limited size and isolation of the insular areas.

Brown bears — Ursus arctos

    At present there are 90 mammal species within the Sakhalin oblast of which 56 ones inhabit land areas.
One of the dioramas of the museum exhibition represents dark coniferous (fir — silver fir) taiga forest of Sakhalin island with some characteristic animal inhabitants thereof. Forest cat — lynx (Felis lynx), stands out of the crowd due to its big size. They are the most rare animals of the island.
The diorama is complete with systematic collection and biological groups of aboriginal mammals common in mountainous taiga forests, taiga rivers and their banks. Brown bears ((Ursus arctos) are the biggest and fairly numerous animals in Sakhalin, on the southern (Kunashir and Iturup) and the northern Kuriles (Paramushir). Siberian musk deer (Moschus moschiferus), hoofed animal which is seldom found in Sakhalin, is represented by the Sakhalin musk deer subspecies (M. m. sachalinensis), which is entered in the Endangered Species List. One can see common red fox (Vulpes vulpes) of the Canidae family — numerous and common species on the all islands of the Oblast. This exhibition makes visitors familiar with animals of different families — mustelids (Mustelidae); hares (Leporidae), and rodents (Rodentia). Mustelids family (Mustelidae) is represented by sable (Martes zibellina), very common inhabitant of the forest; river otter (Lutra lutra), a typical river inhabitant; wolverine (Gulo gulo), a rarely found species; common weasel — ermine (Mustela erminea) — present in small numbers and by the least weasel (Mustela nivalis). The hares and rabbits family (Leporidae) is represented by the Arctic (blue) hare (Lepus timidus), and the rodent family (Rodentia) is represented by squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) and ground squirrel (Tamias sibiricus).
Stuffed wolf (Canis lupus) is displayed in the Exhibit Hall — these predators are not common to Sakhalin. The wolf was killed in the northern Sakhalin in 1955. This testifies to a relative isolation of the island and possibility of uncommon species entry to Sakhalin by crossing Nevelskoy Strait in winter , on the ice. (The Strait is only 7,5 km wide). Tiger and lynx were registered to have come to Sakhalin from the mainland in the near past. Fox and raccoon dog also happened to enter the southern Kurile islands from Hokkaido and white Arctic fox is known to have come to the Paramushir island from Kamchatka.
Represented also is the Reindeer biogroup. Reindeers (Rangifer tarandus) are the typical inhabitants of only the tundra like landscapes of the northern Sakhalin.

Sables — Martes zibellina

    To replenish strength of the hunted fauna species acclimatization of the mammals had been started in Sakhalin and the Kurile islands since 1916. 9 mammal species were introduced to Sakhalin from the mainland and acclimatized. Of the mammal species acclimatized in Sakhalin represented are the raccoon dog (Nuctereutes procyonoides), and also animals accustomed to a semi-aquatic way of life such as: (Mustela sibirica itatsi); American mink (Mustela vison) and muskrat (Ondatra zibethica). Extensive river system and abundance of inland water bodies in Sakhalin turned out to be favorable for wide acclimatization of the semi-aquatic animals.
Apart from the above-mentioned animals Far eastern red deer (Cervus elaphus) and moose (Alces alces) were acclimatized in Sakhalin also, with Komandorsky blue fox (Alopex lagopus semenovi) and Arctic hare (Lepus timidus) acclimated on the northern Kuriles, and European mink (Mustela lutriola) and American mink acclimated on the southern Kuriles.
Dispersal of the local animals over the Sakhalin Oblast territory was also conducted. Sables were dispersed over the southern Sakhalin and the Moneron island and reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) was introduced to the Simushir island, but their acclimatization attempt failed.

Sakhalin musk deer — Moschus moschiferus sachalinensis

    Rugged topography and landscape diversity have posed favorable habitation conditions for many animal species in Sakhalin and the Kurile islands. At the same time habitation conditions differences from the ecological standpoint determine differences in numerical strength and species composition of the local mammals. As a whole, the northern Sakhalin fauna resembles that of the nearest part of the mainland. Fauna of the northern Kurile islands, however, resembles that of the Kamchatka peninsula with the southern Kuriles fauna resembling that of the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Musk rats — Ondatra zibethica


    One of the museums exhibit halls displays ecological group made up by the mammals inhabiting seas and sea coastal areas. As many as 34 mammal species total inhabit seas washing the Sakhalin Oblast, with cetaceous represented by 25 species (12 dolphin species and 13 whale species). 11 of them are rare ones at that — they are entered in the Endangered Species List. One of the exhibit complexes represents skeleton parts of modern whales, such as: toothed whale and baleen whale.
Sea Otters bio group will familiarize visitors with scarce sea otters (Enhydra lutris), inhabiting costal areas of the Greater Kurilian Range. This animal is well-known all over the world owing to the good fir quality. By the beginning of the XX century sea otters had been at the brink of extinction. Their harvesting has been prohibited since 1911 and at present sea otter is entered in the Endangered Species List.
Displayed in the cases are the most common invertebrate species such as: sponges; mollusks, cretaceous and echinoderms. One also can see there inhabitants of the Sea of Okhotsk and the northern Sea of Japan, such as: commercial fish species, including Pacific salmon and exotic fish species such as hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zygaena), sun fish (Mola mola), lumpsucker (Aptocyclus ventricosus), pufferfish (Fugu rubripes) and Japanese dragon poacher (Percis japonicus).

Dwellers of the Sea of Okhotsk shelf


    Displayed in the Exhibit Hall are collections of amphibians (Amphibia) and reptiles (Reptilia) dwelling in the Sakhalin Oblast.
Amphibians are remarkable animals in that they can live both in the water, and on land. Displayed collection of the amphibians contains wet preserved specimens of all tailed and tailless amphibian species of Sakhalin and the Kurile islands. Of tailless amphibians (Anura) four frog species live on the islands of the Sakhalin Oblast. Common toad (Bufo bufo) — the biggest of the frogs and Siberian wood frog (Rana amurensis) are common only in Sakhakin island. Asiatic grass frog (Rana chensinensis) lives all over Sakhalin and in the southern Kuriles: Kunashir, Shikotan, and small islands of the Smaller Kurilian Ridge, such as Polonskogo, Zelyony, Yury, Tanfilieva and Anuchina ones. Forests of the south-western Sakhalin are inhabited by warm loving wood frogs — Japanese tree toad. (Hyla japonica).
Tailed amphibians (Caudata) are represented by only one species — Siberian newt (Hynobius keyserlingii) — this animal is common in Sakhalin and the Kurile islands, such as: Paramushir, Shumshu and Kunashir.
Reptilian collection is represented by all reptilian species inhabiting Sakhalin and some unique species of the southern Kuriles.
Common lizards (Lacerta vivipara) and European northern vipers (Vipera berus) live only on Sakhalin island. European northern vipers — venomous snakes are non-uniformly distributed over the territory of the island forming big assemblages in suitable locations such as: mountain slopes, mountain river banks and on sea coasts. Common lizards can be found everywhere in deciduous and coniferous forests and even within villages and towns (in vegetable gardens and gardens).
Wood snakes and rare lizard species — Far-eastern skinks — live in the forests of the Kunashir island — in the south of the Kuriles Chain. All three species of the Sakhalin island wood snakes are warm loving creatures and often live by thermal springs. Far-eastern skinks occupy exclusively thermal brook banks on volcanoes slopes and usually concentrate in the immediate vicinity of the thermal springs outlets. There are wet preserved specimens of Japanese rat snake (Elaphe climacophora) and Far-eastern skink in the museum.
Quite seldom inhabitants of subtropical and tropical seas, for example leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), occur off the shores of the southern Kurile islands in the waters of the Soya warm current — branch of the Kuroshio current. Stuffed leatherback turtle is displayed in the Exhibit Hall. The turtle was caught by the fishermen in the South Kurile Strait on August 20, 1966.


    More than 370 bird species, such as: nestling and migratory, nestling and over-wintering, over-wintering only and vagrant birds are registered in the Sakhalin Oblast. There are 105 bird species that are rare for the Russian fauna as a whole and entered in the Sakhalin Oblast Endangered Species List. Rare birds collection is represented by vagrant white-naped crane (Grus vipio); two stork species (Ciconiidae) such as: Oriental white stork (Ciconia boyciana) and black stork (Ciconia nigra); predatory hawk birds (Accipitridae) such as: white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) and Stellers sea eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus); falcons (Falconidae) such as: peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and gerfalcon (Falco gyrfalco); anatine vagrant birds (Anatidae) are represented by mandarin duck (Aix galericulata); Charadriidae birds are represented by Japanese snipe (Gallinago hardwiclcii) and solitary snipe (Gallinago solitaria), pigeon birds (Columbidae) are represented by green pigeon (Sphenurus sieboldii).
Bird species ecologically connected with water bodies are the most numerous in the Sakhalin Oblast islands. Sea birds, such as: cormorants (Phalacrocoracidae), seagulls (Laridae), and auklets (Alcidae) — form overcrowded nestling grounds on the steep coastal cliffs — the so-called bird colonies. The colonies may count from several pairs up to several hundred thousands birds. Displayed map shows locations of more than 20 major bird colonies on the Sakhalin Oblast islands.
Big assemblages of swans (Cygnus cygnus), various duck species (Anatidae) and the Charadriidae birds can be seen on marine bays and coasts in autumn and spring during their migration periods.
Such species as sea eagles: white tailed eagles and Stellers sea eagles and crows, such as: large-billed crows (Corvus macrorhynchos), carrion crows (. corone) and ravens (. corax) live on sea coasts all the year round.
Snow owls (Nystea scandiaca) and Arctic falcons (Falco gyrfalco) fly to the islands to over-winter and hold on to sea coasts.
Ptarmigans — or white grouses (Lagopus lagopus) — the typical tundra birds — inhabit tundra-type landscapes of the southern Sakhalin and scarce larch forests of the northern and middle parts of Sakhalin. One can see bio group „Ptarmigan in the spring and autumn plumages“ displayed in the Exhibit Hall.
Of wild (forester) birds species wood peckers (Piciformes) and sparrow birds (Passeriformes) are the most numerous ones, with fowl like birds being the less numerous. The displayed exhibits will make visitors familiar with such bird species as: hazel grouse (Tetrastes bonasia); black billed capercallie (Tetrao parvirostris); ptarmigan or white grouse (Lagopus lagopus); black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius); grey-headed woodpecker (Picus canus); greater spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major); lesser spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor); Japanese pigmy woodpecker (Dendrocopos kizuki) and three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus), passing the whole winter in the forests of the Sakhalin Oblast islands; nuthatch (Sitta europaea); tit (Paridae), common cross bill (Loxia curvirostra), grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator), waxbird (Bombycilla garrulus), bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), common jay (Garrulus grandarius), nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocat-actes), creeper (Certhia familiaris) and others. 70 ,  , . Of bird species displayed more than 70 species over-winter on the Sakhalin Oblast islands.
The Tree sparrow (Passer montanus) displayed in the museum — are the most numerous birds of villages and cities.
Among the forester birds collection displayed also are rare warm loving bird species such as: green pigeon (Sphenurus sieboldii) and Xanthopygia narcissina. These birds nestle in the southern Sakhalin and the southern Kuriles.
Bird collection includes birds which over-winter on the non-freezing river areas of Sakhalin and the Kurile islands, such as: solitary snipe (Gallinago solitaria) and water ouzel (Cinclus pallasii).

Ptarmigans — white grouses — Lagopus lagopus, in the spring plumage

Prepared by: G. V. Matyushkov, the Museums Assistant Director in charge of Main Activities and Scientific-Research Work.


Exposition of the museum

Ground floor
Historical geology
The fauna of the Far Eastern seas
First floor
Plant and animal life
Ancient cultures and indigenous peoples
In the depths of the ocean
Second floor
Postwar period. Modernity
The discovery and development of the islands
Before the war. World War II
Penal servitude

Kommunisticheskiy prospekt - 29
Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia, 693010
+7 (4242) 727555