The Western Caucasus as seen from peak Tabunnaya near Krasnaya Polyana.
|UNESCO World Heritage Site|
|Official name||Western Caucasus|
|Criteria||Natural: ix, x|
|Inscription||1999 (23rd Session)|
World Heritage SiteEdit
The Western Caucasus includes a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site comprising the extreme western edge of the Caucasus Mountains. As stated by the UNESCO specialists, it is the only large mountain area in Europe that has not experienced significant human impact. Its habitats are exceptionally varied for such a small area, ranging from lowlands to glaciers. The site is situated 50 km to the north from the Russian resort of Sochi.
The Western Caucasus also contains the Caucasian State Nature Biosphere Reserve (Russian Кавказский государственный природный биосферный заповедник), nature reserve (IUCN management category Ia ) set up by the Soviet government in Krasnodar Krai, Adygea and Karachay–Cherkessia in 1924 to preserve some 85 m-high specimens of the Nordmann Fir (Abies nordmanniana), thought to be the tallest trees in Europe, and a unique forest formed by English Yew (Taxus baccata) and European Box (Buxus sempervirens) within the city of Sochi.
The Western Caucasus is also the place of origin and of reintroduction of the Caucasian Wisent. The last wild wisent in the world was killed by poachers here in 1927. Wisents partly interbred with American bison were reintroduced several decades later.
Persian leopard reintroductionEdit
In 2009, a Persian leopard reintroduction centre was created in Sochi National Park, where two male leopards from Turkmenistan are being kept since September 2009, and two females from Iran since May 2010. Their descendants will be released into the wild in the Biosphere Reserve.
A pair of leopards were brought to the Sochi park in 2012 from the Lisbon Zoo in Portugal. In July 2013, the pair had a litter, the first Persian Leopard cubs known to be born in Russia in 50 years. The cubs will be released into the wild after learning survival skills from their parents, according to Natalia Dronova, the WWF-Russia species coordinator. 
- Kavkazskiy Biosphere Reserve profile at UNESCO website
- WWF (2009) Flying Turkmen leopards to bring species back to Caucasus. WWF, 23 September 2009
- Sochi.Live (2010) Sochi welcomes leopards from Iran. Organizing Committee of the XXII Olympic Winter Games and XI Paralympic Winter Games of 2014 in Sochi, 4 May 2010
- Druzhinin, A. (2010). Iranian leopards make themselves at home in Russia's Sochi. RIA Novosti, 6 May 2010
- "First Persian leopard cubs in 50 years born in Russian breeding center". United Press International. July 19, 2013. Retrieved July 21, 2013.