Located beside the Caspian Sea and below Russia, Azerbaijan is a former Soviet Republic with a rich history that precedes Soviet power by thousands of years. The oil-rich country is located in the Caucasus region and serves as a gateway from East to West. It used to be an important stop along the Silk Road. Azerbaijan draws tourists from all over the world for its history, culture, natural wonders and national reserves, including the Hirkan National Park.
Hirkan pertains to the ancient name of the Caspian Sea and is also the name of the city and a tribe living in the area. Located on the shores of the Caspian Sea, the verdant Hirkan National Park is closely monitored, preserved and protected by the local government. It is so huge, spreading to 42,797 hectares, covering the lush forests of the Talysh Mountains and stretching to the Lankaran Lowland. It is the home of about 150 species of trees and plants of the country’s 435 species.
Some of the uniquely beautiful plants inside the park are the Silk acacia, Hirkan pear tree, Hirkan box tree, Caucasus palm-tree, Caspian gleditsia, iron tree, chestnut leave oak, fig-tree, and butcher’s broom, among many others. Most of these are endemic and have been included in Azerbaijan’s Red Book of endangered species.
Meanwhile, the animals that call the park their home are the Front-Asian leopard, Persian leopard, lynx, wild boar, roe deer, Sika deer, and raccoon, to name a few. The Front-Asian leopard is highly endangered, which makes it a priority in the country’s Red Book. Also amazing are the birds of Hirkan, which include the golden eagle, imperial eagle, Talysh pheasant, black stork, Northern goshawk, osprey, black francolin, and a hundred plus more species. Sixteen species are also listed in the Red Book.
On the other hand, insect species identified in the same book are the Caspian parandra, Talysh longhorn beetle, Talysh ground beetle, Talysh orange tip butterfly, and brahmid moth among others.
The park is so immense that visitors and trekkers would walk in and out of different types of forests as they hike from east to west. To the east is the lower part of the forest that is mostly made up of Caucasian persimmon, Hirkan fig, ironwood, black locust, and chestnut-leaved oak. Moving upwards, one finds mostly beech. The forest within the Lankaran Lowland is called the Moscow Forest.
It is a rather humid trek in this part o f the country. The warmest day on record is at 25°C and the coolest at 1°C.
Established and made open to the public on February 9, 2004, the Hirkan National Park aims to conserve the endemic plant species under its care; strictly protect all the animals, birds, plants, and insects included in the country’s Red Book; implement environmental monitoring; and educate the people about the environment by providing opportunities for tourism, research, and recreation.
The Hirkan National Park is yet to be included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites and Bisophere Reserves. The parks imminent inclusion in the list is much deserving since it has so many reasons to be considered as a world heritage.