Hirkan National Park was established in 09 February 2004. The National Park is located on the shores of the Caspian Sea in the southeast of Azerbaijan. By the Decree dated on 23 april 2008 of the Prezident of Azerbaijan the area of Hirkan National park was enlarged to 40358 hectares. The park encompasses a virgin part of the Talish Mountains which are distinguished for its unique natural components. The mission of the National Park is to ensure the conservation of relict and endemic plant species of the Tertiary period, the protection of typical flora and fauna representatives of this area listed in the Red Data Book of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the implementation of environmental monitoring, public environmental education as well as creating conditions for research, tourism and recreation.
The word “Hirkan” is derived from the ancient name of the Caspian Sea and a name sake city. A tribe inhabiting this area was also similarly called. Most of the park’s area is covered by forests and is composed of mountains extending from northwest to southeast. The park is rich in plant species. The vegetation cover is mainly represented by trees and shrubs that form forests here. Although the landscape does not slope steeply upwards reaching only 1000 m at most, type of forests here distinctively change by height zones as you proceed from east to west towards the mountain peak. Forests in the lower part predominantly comprise chestnut-leaved oak, ironwood and hornbeam together with black locust, Hirkan fig, Caucasian persimmon, etc.
As you climb upper ironwood and chestnut-leaved oak decline and get replaced with beech forests. The most typical distinctiveness of subtropical forests in the Lankaran zone, where Hirkan National Park is located, is that Hirkan type forests have been well-preserved to date and consist of mainly endemic and rare tree and shrub species. Of 435 tree and shrub species occurring in Azerbaijan 150 ones grow in the Hirkan forests while 36 of them are endemic. While tropical forests are made up of four tiers, subtropical Hirkan forests are three-tiered. The climate in the park is humid. Summer is dry, autumn is moist and winter is moderate.
The hottest temperature is 22-25 0 C and the coldest weather is 1-3o C. The richness of the region’s plant kingdom has provided habitat for many animals here. Front-Asian leopard, lynx, wild cat, badger, wild boar, roe deer, sika deer, raccoon are found among. Front-Asian leopard is threatened with extinction and protected under the Red Data Book of Azerbaijan and IUCN list. The ornitofauna of Hirkan National Park numbers over 118 bird species. 16 species including black stork, osprey, Northern goshawk, imperial eagle, Talish Caucasian pheasant, black francolin are listed in the Red Data Book of Azerbaijan.
The entomofauna of the national park is very rich in endemic species. Among the Red-listed species one can find here Talish longhorn beetle, Talish ground beetle, speckled wood, Talish orangetip butterfly, Caspian parandra, brahmid moth and other insects. Hirkan National Park is also famous by its rare natural monuments. There are more than one hundred natural and cultural monuments in the park’s area.
One of the most famous natural forest monuments is “Guru Nabi”, a sacred place nearby Zungulash village in Astara district. During the Neolith and Bronze Ages a center of the Southern Caucasus agriculture was located in the vicinity of Hirkan forests. Archeological excavations show that farming flourished here in the 5 th to 4th millennium BC. The proximity of Hirkan National Park to the Caspian Sea and main highways, its beautiful corners of nature provide favorable conditions for the development of ecotourism and promotion of environmental education.