Western Caucasus

 

Western Caucasus

Region of the Russian Federation: Krasnodar Region, Republic of Adygea, Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia

Status of Territories composing the Property: Кавказский State Nature Biosphere Reserve, Bolshoy Thach Nature Park, several nature monuments

Area: 0,30 million ha

Status: inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1999

Due to the diversity of flora and fauna and the state of their conservation, the western part of the Greater Caucasus is unequaled, not only in the Caucasus but among the mountain regions of Europe and Western Asia. This is an area where many threatened, rare, endemic and relict plant and animal species are concentrated. The area contains the habitats of such vulnerable animals as the bison, Caucasian red deer, West Caucasus wild ox, Caucasian bear, wolf and others.

The Kavkazsky Nature Reserve is specialized in conservation and restoration of one of the world’s few European bison populations living free in natural conditions. Although, the pure bison became extinct in the 1920’s, there are still some hybrid species living in captivity, which also have hereditary properties of the Caucasian bison. These animals belong to the so-called Belovezha-Caucasus line and make up the backbone of the Kavkazsky Nature Reserve bison population. After almost 50 years of selection, these animals have occupied the natural niche of the Caucasian bison. The Kavkazsky Nature Reserve is the only place in the world where the mountain bison still lives. In all the other places, poachers have been exterminated these animals.

Ancient and modern mountain glaciers played an important part in shaping of the Western Caucasus terrain. Trough valleys, moraines, mountain wetlands and glacial lakes are widely spread in this area. Karst development processes still continue in the limestone massifs of the northern part of the area. 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 m in diameter.

The territory exhibits a full range of aesthetically valuable objects including: waterfalls (up to 250 m); mountain peaks (up to 3,360 m); crystal clear lakes, fir trees that are 60 to 85 m high and about 2 m in diameter, forests and meadows with many orchids, pure mountain rivers and many other features. The Western Caucasus has retained its invaluable unique and pristine natural complex.