Wildlife of the Russian Caucasus

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From high snowy peaks to baking deserts, the Caucasus is much more than a simple mountain range. With habitats including forests, alpine meadows and arid salt flats, like the rest of Russia it boasts a dazzling array of wildlife. Home to wild boars, Eurasian lynx, long-eared hedgehogs, bezoar ibex, rare highland European bison and the truly bizarre glass lizard, this area is another jewel in Russias wilderness crown. The Caucasian Mountains are a link between Europe and Asia, the highest peaks of this rugged range are well over 5000 metres.


The Caucasus is an area of great ecological importance. It harbors some 6400 species of higher plants, 1600 of which are endemic to the region. Its wildlife includes leopards, brown bears, wolves, European bison, marals, golden eagles and Hooded Crows. Among invertebrates, some 1000 spider species are recorded in the Caucasus. The natural landscape is one of mixed forest, with substantial areas of rocky ground above the treeline. The Caucasus Mountains are also noted for a dog breed, the Caucasian Shepherd Dog (Ovcharka).

Guide to the Birds of the Caucasus

Wildlife Extra News – WWF to reintroduce leopards to the Caucasus

WWF has started a large-scale project aimed at returning the Persian leopard, now virtually extinct in Russia, to its former habitat in the Russian Caucasus.

WWF-Russia has launched a six-year project, supported by the Russian Ministry of Nature Resources, aimed at reintroducing the Persian leopard into the Northern Caucasus. The holding pens will shortly be built in Sochi National Park and animals from several zoos will be transported to Sochi. The baby leopards born in the pens will become the founders of the new population.

Caucasus (Endemic Birds Areas of the world)

  • This mountainous EBA lies between the Black and Caspian Seas, extending from the southern Russian Federation, through Georgia and Armenia into north-west Iran, and including north-east Turkey and northern and western Azerbaijan. Several mountain ranges are included but the EBA is largely defined by the Greater Caucasus (reaching 5,600 m) and, to the south, the Lesser Caucasus (4,095 m). These mountains support a diverse variety of vegetation types including broadleaved and coniferous forests, montane steppe and woodlands, subalpine and alpine meadows and semi-desert vegetation
  • Habitat loss and deterioration is a major threat in this EBA, with some 50% of forests in the Greater Caucasus being subject to logging, 40% of the subalpine meadows suffering from overgrazing, and semi-desert areas being used as winter pastures for sheep-grazing (WWF/IUCN 1994). Nevertheless none of the restricted-range birds is considered globally threatened as the remoteness of much of the habitat gives natural protection to many areas. Tetrao mlokosiewiczi is, however, judged to be Near Threatened and is treated by Tucker and Heath (1994) as a Species of European Conservation Concern with an unfavourable conservation status. Although the population of T. mlokosiewiczi is numerically strong (c.70,000 birds in the Greater Caucasus and c.500 in the Lesser Caucasus), since the 1930s a slow decline in numbers and some local reductions in range have been detected (chiefly in the southern parts of its range), owing to the deterioration in the suitability of the alpine meadows through overgrazing. Unfortunately there appear to be no data for the last decade because of political unrest in the region.

Endemic Species of the Caucasus