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Azerbaijan's natural parks and reserves

31 January 2022 10:30 (UTC+04:00)
Azerbaijan's natural parks and reserves

By Sabina Mammadli

Nature reserves and national parks exist solely to protect endangered species and are often the only way to prevent the extinction of fauna and flora today, preserving up to 80 percent of species.

Azerbaijan places a high value on the preservation of its unique natural environment, as evidenced by its numerous national parks and reservoirs.

Since 1997, January 11 is celebrated worldwide as the International Day of Reserves and National Parks at the initiative of the Biodiversity Conservation Center and the World Wildlife Fund. Azerbaijan also follows this tradition.

The choice of the day was no coincidence as it all started January 11, 1917, when the Barguzin Nature Reserve was established on Lake Baikal to protect rare animals in Russia.

According to the Ecology and National Resources Ministry, Azerbaijan has 10 national parks, 10 state reservoirs, and 24 state nature sanctuaries working toward this goal. The total area of specially protected natural areas is 893,000 hectares, accounting for 10.31percent of the country's total land area. The Goygol State Nature Reserve was established in 1925 as Azerbaijan's first reserve.

The Zagatala-Balakan biosphere reserve, which will be established in Azerbaijan, will be the first in the South Caucasus region.

The reserve, which will be established on the basis of the Zagatala State Nature Reserve, will create conditions for the development of ecotourism while also increasing employment in the region. The entrance to the biosphere reserve will be open to ecotourists.

The ministry is still working to establish new specially protected natural areas and expand existing ones.

During the 30 years of occupation, Armenians have vandalized Azerbaijani lands, destroying all historical monuments, mosques, residential buildings, and houses, as well as cutting down and burning forests. Unfortunately, as a result of Armenia's military aggression against Azerbaijan, valuable trees and other rare biodiversity samples were destroyed in state nature reserves such as Basitchay, Garagol, Arazboyu, Lachin, Gubadli, and Dashalti.

However, the state is continuing to monitor the areas, as well as the reconstruction and restoration efforts. It is planned to expand specially protected natural areas in liberated areas and to establish new specially protected natural areas.

According to reports in local media, 1,884 people visited national parks on Azerbaijani solidarity day and New Year's Eve.

Specifically, due to the snowy weather in the mountainous areas, the tourist flow to the Goygol and Shahdag national parks was noted.

The Gabala State Historical-Artistic Reserve is one of the most visited historical sites by both local and foreign tourists throughout 2021. For example, 3,903 people visited the reserve in 2021. There were 3,657 local visitors and 246 foreign tourists.

Arzu Samadova, a representative of the Biodiversity Protection Service, said that propaganda of national parks located in beautiful corners of our country, interesting, colorful video, and photographs reflecting biodiversity and different seasons play an important role in attracting tourists to the reserves. She noted that far more citizens and tourists prefer to visit national parks during the holidays, and thus the number of tourists increases year after year.

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