Western Caucasus

on the map

Region of the Russian Federation: Krasnodar Krai, Republic of Adygea and Karachay- Cherkess Republic

Area: 299 thousand ha

Criteria: (ix), (x)

Site Status: inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1999

Status of Territories composing the Site:
Caucasus (Kavkazsky) State Nature Biosphere Reserve with its buffer zone (354340, Krasnodar Krai, Sochi, ul. K. Marksa, 8); “Bolshoy Tkhach” Nature Park (385000, Republic of Adygea, Maikop, ul. Pervomayskaya, 197); “Buyny Ridge”, “Headwaters of Tsytse River” and “Headwaters of Pshekha and Pshekhashkha Rivers” Natural Monuments.

Among mountainous regions of Europe and Western Asia the western part of the Greater Caucasus is unequalled in flora and fauna diversity and the state of their conservation. This is an area inhabited by many threatened, rare, endemic and relict plant and animal species. It is only here that the habitat of the wisent, Caucasian red deer, West Caucasian tur, chamois, Caucasian brown bear, wolf and others is found almost unaltered.

The Caucasus Nature Reserve specializes in restoration of one of the world’s few European wisent populations, destroyed in the 1920s. Fortunately hybrids with the hereditary characteristics including the Caucasian form had been preserved in captivity. These animals, belonging to the so-called Belovezha-Caucasus line, form the basis of the Reserve’s wisent population. The project lasted almost 50 years and now the Reserve is almost the only place in the world where the mountain wisent still lives. Beyond the reserve poachers have practically exterminated these animals.

Ancient and modern mountain glaciers played an important part in shaping the Western Caucasus terrain. Trough valleys, moraines, mountain wetlands and glacial lakes are widespread. Karst development processes still continue in the limestone massifs of its northern part. Numerous caves and cavities (among the longest and deepest in Russia, some are over 600 m deep and 15 km long), form complex underground systems of rivers, lakes and waterfalls.

On rock outcrops of different ages and composition, one can find interesting remains of extinct ancient organisms. The valley of the Belaya River has become world famous, for instance, for its numerous findings of giant ammonite shells, some over one metre in diameter.

The territory exhibits a full range of impressive scenery including powerful waterfalls; pointed mountain peaks (up to 3,360 m); rapid mountain rivers with crystal water; pure mountain lakes, huge trees (grand fir trees that are up to 70m high and about 2 m in diameter); rare plants (orchids and others) and many other features.