Kavkazsky Zapovednik

Sure-footed chamois skitter about high, narrow ledges with gravity-defying agility that enables them and even their newborn kids to escape most predators, including golden eagles, wolves, lynx, and brown bears that share their range in beautiful Kavkazsky Zapovednik. Not far behind them are other agile ungulates, including Eurasian tur, and, grazing at lower elevations in this 1,016-square-mile (2,633-km2) reserve in the Caucasus Mountains of southwestern Russia, rare European bison (a Caucasian subspecies), maral (red) deer, roe deer, and formidably tusked wild boars, among 59 mammal species.

Rare bird populations include, among some 192 species, bearded and griffon vultures, Caucasian blackcocks, and Caucasian snowcocks.

The Caucasus Mountain region, site of this reserve in southwestern Russia, has been called one of the most biologically diverse, beautiful, and endangered in the northern hemisphere.

Some 1,500 species of vascular plants have been recorded—20 of them endemic—including gigantic chestnuts, groves of rare, old-growth yews and box trees, old-growth maples thriving at nearly 9,000 feet (2,745 m), and Nordmann firs almost 200 feet (60 m) tall.

Serious problems which have caused drastic declines in some wildlife numbers in recent years include poaching (here, as elsewhere, sometimes even by officials). Rangers are poorly equipped, without reliable means of transportation and communication. Large-scale commercial timber harvesting along borders threatens valuable tree species. And now, plans have been revived to build a road which would violate environmental laws, cut migration routes, and require felling unique relict forests.