By Rasana Gasimova
The Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources will develop a national program for the development of ecotourism in Azerbaijan.
Hikmat Alizade, the director of the Department for Biodiversity Conservation of the Ministry said this at the round table on “Ecotourism in national parks of Azerbaijan” held on October 1, Trend reports.
He added that despite the great potential of the national parks from a biological point of view, there are not many tourists visiting them.
“Therefore, we will develop a program for the development of the country's national parks. We should consider ways to increase the number of visitors to national parks, define the gaps in this area. We shouldn’t forget that about 3,000 people visited national parks 5-10 years ago. During the eight months 2019, 74,217 people visited national parks of Azerbaijan, “he said.
Alizade noted that 7,286 foreigners and 66,931 locals visited national parks this year.
Speaking at the event, Malak Shukurova, the Director of Azerbaijan Representative Office of the Regional Environmental Center of the Caucasus (REC Caucasus), said that there are about 50 hiking trails in Shahdag National Park, and two more will be built in 2019.
The Regional Environmental Center Azerbaijan Representative Office cooperates with Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources within the project of eco-corridors creation.
According to Shukurova, this work is currently being carried out in Gonagkend and Ismayilli areas of the Park.
“Work on creating eco-corridors was carried out jointly with the Ministry of Ecology for about two years. We also involved local communities in this program; we organized training for them up until May-July 2019. Jointly with the communities, an ecotourism program was prepared for the Shahdag National Park. This program includes development of ecotrails. The main function of our project is creation of infrastructure. Currently, specialists are working on the ground. Implementation of this project in other national parks also depends on the success of work in the Shahdag National Park,” she said.
Stretching over 322,492 acres, the Shahdag National Park is considered the largest national park in the Caucasus. There, you can find such types of trees as Caucasian oak, chestnut-leaved oak, senna, European wild pear, as well as other rare plants. The park is one of the five most popular tourist destinations in winter among the CIS countries. Located near the border with Russia, the park covers six regions of Azerbaijan, as well as the territory of the Ismayilli and Pirguli natural reserves.
During the event, Azer Mirzayev, Director of the Hirkan National Park, said that it is impossible that leopards, wild bears and other wild animals living in the territories of National parks near villages attack people. These animals move only along their routes.
“And this shows that these animals do not deviate from their routes and do not pose danger to humans. Tourists from the USA, Norway and other countries come to the Hirkan National Park mainly to look at the leopards,” said Mirzayev.
He added that due to the fact that leopards live in highland areas that are impassable, tourists are shown their pictures taken through trap cameras.
“Photos taken over the past year confirm that the security system in the park is in perfect order. The feeding of leopards is increasing and their number has increased from four to six,” he emphasized.
The park director added that work is currently underway to open the 12th observation line for mountain partridges and francolins.
National parks are favorable natural areas for the development of ecotourism in the country. As a relatively new phenomenon in global tourism activities, ecotourism is an environmental tourism oriented to nature preservation.
The route of ecotourism, unlike the other types of tourism, is mainly based on nature objects - forests, forest massifs, reserves, sanctuaries and national parks.
Azerbaijan is rich with natural resources, ancient history and magnificent landscapes. The country attracts tourists with its modern architecture, resort areas, national parks, museums, historical monuments.
The country's national parks often become travel destinations for tourists. As many as 79,997 people visited the national parks of Azerbaijan in 2018. Of this amount, 7,478 were foreign guests of the country.
Currently, 10 national parks operate in Azerbaijan.
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