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Hirkan State Nature Reserve

Hirkan State Nature Reserve was established by resolution No. 234 of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan dated December 21, 2005, for the protection of the forests bordering the Hirkan National Park, the migration routes of rare and endangered animal species listed in the Red Book of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and the integrity and biological diversity of the ecosystem in that area. Hirkan Reserve is located in the southeast of Azerbaijan, in the territory of Lankaran and Astara administrative regions. The reserve has a total area of 21435 hectares. The National Park covers the natural areas of the Talysh mountains, which are distinguished by their unique natural complexes. By the resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan dated April 23, 2008, the territory of Hirkan National Park was expanded to 40358 hectares. The main goal of establishing the National Park is the comprehensive protection of nature in this territory, protection of relict and endemic plant species of the Tertiary period, preservation of typical flora and fauna species included in the "Red Book" of the Republic of Azerbaijan, implementation of environmental monitoring, to raise public awareness, as well as to create conditions for research, tourism and recreation.       

Most of the territory of Hirkan National Park is covered by forests and a range of mountains stretching from the northwest to the southeast. The area is dominated by a mild-hot climate with dry summers. Summers are dry, autumns are humid, and winters are mild. Although the territory of Hirkan National Park is not very high in the vertical belt (up to 1000 m), it can be observed that the forests change in the vertical belts as one ascends the mountains from east to west: mainly in the lower part, there are forests dominated by chestnut-leaved oak, ironwood and sedge (along with Silk acacia, Caspian feather, Hirkan fig, Caucasian date, Zelkova Spach). With increasing altitude, the number of predominantly ironwood and partly chestnut oaks decreases and is replaced by peanut forests.   

The ecosystems of the area support populations of many mammals and forest birds of the Hirkan region which are significant on national, regional and global scales. The animal world of the park is very rich. Leopard, spotted deer, lynx, badger, wild boar, roe deer, raccoon and other mammals can be found here. Common newt, crested newt, Syrian garlic frog, Caucasian cruciferous frog, common land frog are common amphibian species in the area. Among the reptiles the Mediterranean turtle, the striped naked-eyed lizard, the round-headed worm lizard, the Baluch ground agama, the Aesculapian snake and other species are found in the territory of the National Park.                     

The names of the birds as Black stork, grave eagle, Pelecanus crispus, grouse, Marbled duck, Talysh pheasant, Poecile Hirkanus (Caspian tit), bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), and others sheltered in the avifauna of Hirkan National Park are included in the "Red Book" of Azerbaijan. The entomofauna of the National Park is rich in endemic species. Among the species in the territory listed in the "Red Book", there are insects such as the Purpuricenus Talyshensis, the Dorcadion talyshense, the three-winged Talysh beetle, the Hemidicera fritillum, Zegris eupheme, the Talysh brahmaea, hippotion celerio, the Okhim golden butterfly, Argynnis alexandra, the Pararge adrastoides and others.    

In the forests of the National Park, Dryopteris, Ruscus Hirkanus, Buxus Hirkana, Ilex Hirkana, and various lianas are widespread. The names of most of these plants are included in the "Red Book" of Azerbaijan. One of the most characteristic features of the subtropical forests of the Lankaran zone, where the Hirkan National Park is located, is the well-preserved Hirkan type forests and the wide distribution of many endemic, rare trees and shrubs. Hirkan National Park is also famous for its rare natural monuments. There are more than 100 natural and cultural monuments here. One of the most famous natural forest monuments is located near Zungulash (Züngüləş) village of Astara region. The proximity to the Caspian Sea and the diversity of nature create favorable conditions for the development of ecotourism in the area and the study of the environment.      

For inclusion of the Hirkan Reserve in the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List, all the relevant documents were prepared by our state, sent to the World Heritage List, and on September 30, 19  Hirkan State Nature Reserve was included in the Tentative List of Tangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Protection of UNESCO.          

Taking into account the characteristics of the Hirkan forests, which are rich in relict species and have a very interesting landscape, it was proposed to include this unique area in the UNESCO World Heritage List, for this purpose, the transnational "Hirkan forests" nomination was prepared within the Hirkan National Park and was submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee at the end of 2022.   

The decision to include the Hirkan forests of Azerbaijan in the UNESCO World Heritage List was made at the 45th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on September 17, 2023. Thus, the Hirkan forests are the first natural area of Azerbaijan inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. 

The inscription of Hirkan Forests of Azerbaijan on the UNESCO World Heritage List is an indication of the attention of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva to this area.