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Established: 1935
401,428 ha (4,014 km2)
Buffer zone: 62,550 ha (626 km2)

Contact information:
Astafiev Anatoly Alekseevich, Director

ul. Partisanskaya 46

Terney, Primorsky Krai

Russia 692150

Tel: +7 (423-74) 3-15-59, 3-13-65
Fax: 3-13-78
Email: sixote@vld.global-one.ru

Mountains recede into mountains as far as the eye can see, divided only by the fissures of valleys and canyons. These lushly forested mountains - known as the Sikhote-Alin Mountain Range - are home to the largest cat on Earth - the endangered Siberian tiger. The Sikhote-Alinsky Nature Reserve, located in the Primorye Province of the Russian Far East, protects a large tract of prime tiger habitat. In remote forests untouched by humans, the Siberian tiger prowls for Manchurian red deer and wild boar. Along the coast of the Sea of Japan, the rare goat-like Himalayan chamois ventures out onto steep overhangs to feed on tufts of grass. The coalescence of boreal and subtropical forests, coupled with a vertical shift of more than 1,500 meters from the sea to the highest mountain, give rise to an amazing array of plant and animal life - all of which is granted eternal protection in Sikhote-Alinsky Biosphere Zapovednik.

Photo © Bruce Bunting

Zapovednik Images
Zapovednik Facts
Articles featuring this nature reserve in Russian Conservation News journal

Articles featuring this nature reserve in Russian Conservation News journal:

Images of Sikhote-Alinsky Zapovednik
Click on each photo to see a large version.

© Boyd Norton

Forest-covered mountains occupy more than two-thirds of Sikhote-Alinsky Zapovednik.

© Keisuke Saito

The rare Blakiston's fish owl catches fish and crabs while wading in shallow streams.

© 1996 Boyd Norton

The paw print left by a Siberian tiger is the largest of any cat in the world.

© Boyd Norton

Sikhote-Alin protects a diversity of plant life, including the rare ginseng plant.

© Boyd Norton

Heavy rains replenish mountain streams in summertime.


© Boyd Norton

The zapovednik protects the East and West slopes of the Middle Sikhote-Alin Range.

© Bruce Bunting

Threatened by habitat loss, fewer than 500 Siberian tigers remain. Sikhote-Alinsky protects key tiger habitat.

© Boyd Norton

The poisonous Ussuri mamushi is found only in the Primorye region.


Zapovednik Facts:

A unique feature of wildlife found in the Primorye region - a part of the Eastern Asian temperate zone - is the weaving together of different species far from their geographical centers of origin. The Sikhote-Alin Mountains make up the southern boundary for boreal species like ermine (Mustela erminea), wolverine (Gulo gulo), adder snake (Vipera berus), and chestnut bunting (Emberiza rutila). At the same time, the mountains are northernmost habitat of tropical species such as the Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) and the Amur wild cat (Prionailurus bengalensis).

The Siberian - or Amur - tiger is perhaps the most prized creature in the Sikhote-Alin mountains, making the endangered cat the prime target of protection measures in the region. The largest cat in the world, this subspecies is significantly larger than its Asian relative, and has a thicker and lighter-colored coat. More than eight Siberian tigers live permanently in Sikhote-Alinsky Zapovednik, and at least as many regularly cross into its territory. Manchurian red deer (Cervus elaphus xanthopygos) make up two-thirds of the big cat's diet; wild boar (Sus scrofa) and smaller game make up the remainder. Tigers track prey along rivers and under the cover of trees in Sikhote-Alin's valleys, zig-zagging up steep mountain slopes to find shelter on rocky outcrops or boulder fields. This magnificent creature is threatened by habitat loss - including logging and hunting for its food base, and by poaching for its luxurious fur and bones, used in Asian medicine practices.

The other cat stalking prey in Sikhote-Alinsky Zapovednik is the lynx (Felix lynx). This cat hunts for smaller game like roe deer (Capreolus pygargus)and Manchurian and mountain hare (Lepus mandschuricus, L. timidus). The Manchurian hare - smaller and with shorter legs than other hares - is found only in the Eastern Asian temperate zone. Both brown bears (Ursus arctos) and Asiatic black bears (U. tibethanus) coexist in Sikhote-Alinsky Zapovednik, although the former is widespread throughout Northern Russia and the latter is found only in East Asia. The smaller Asiatic black bear, with its characteristic white chest, climbs trees to feed on leaves and nuts. As the bear eats nestled in the crook of a tree, it shoves the stripped branches under its bottom, creating a collection of debris that is often mistaken for a nest.

Musk deer (Moschus moschiferus) prefer high-elevation pine forests where competition for food is minimal; in winter they browse on lichens hanging low on trees. These tiny deer often become prey to the smaller but savage Indian marten (Martes flavigula). The range of this strikingly beautiful member of the weasel family - with its bright yellow throat, black cap, and dark bushy tail - stretches all the way to the equator. Sika deer (Cervus nippon) graze in grassy meadows found in broadleaf forests. Wild boar root for acorns under oak trees in the valleys and search for pine nuts on the forest floor in the mountains. Two species of poisonous snakes - brown and Ussuri mamushi (Agkistrodon saxatilis, A. blomhoffi) - sun themselves in openings in the forest and on rocks. The latter is endemic to the Primorye region. Northern pikas (Ochotona hyperborea) prefer rocky terrain above treeline, where hiding places and subalpine grasses abound.

Far below the mountain tops, the rugged coast of the Sea of Japan is home to an interesting array of wildlife. Larga seals (Phoca vitulina) swim in the waters off the coast, stopping to rest on protruding reefs and rocks. Playful otters (Lutra lutra) splash in streams and small salt-water coves along the seashore. Up above the crashing waves, small goat-like Himalayan chamoises (Nemorhaedus caudatus) thread over rocks and along narrow crevices. Small rookeries of spectacled guillemot (Cepphus carbo) and Temminck's cormorant (Phalacrocorax capillatus) - both endemic birds to the region - come to life in spring along the coast. Besides seabirds, Pacific swift (Apus pacificus) and hill pigeon (Columba rupestris) nest in numbers in the coastal cliffs. The endangered white-tailed sea-eagle (Haliaëetus albicilla) soars above the shore year round.

Further inland, subtropical birds such as ashy minivet (Pericrocotus divaricatus) and Chinese white-eye (Zosterops erythropleurus) nest in low-lying broadleaf forests. The brightly-colored Eastern broad-billed roller (Eurystomus orientalis) is found mainly in floodplain forests, where it nests in tree dens. Common cross-bill (Loxia curvirostra), Siberian jay (Perisoreus infaustus), and Northern three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus) are common residents of mixed spruce and fir forests, whereas spotted-nutcrackers (Nucifraga caryocatactes) prefer Siberian pine forests. White-throated rock thrush (Monticola gularis) thrive in sub alpine pine groves, venturing to higher elevations than other forest-dwelling birds. Hodgson's hawk-cuckoo (Cuculus fugax), found from the Sikhote-Alin mountains to the tropics of southern Asia, prefers to nest in alpine tundra, despite the fact that the bird is essentially a tropical species. Eurasian scops-owl (Otus scops), collared scops-owl (O. bakkamoena), and the endangered Blakiston's fish owl (Ketupa blakistoni) are just a few of the many owl species in Sikhote-Alinsky Zapovednik.

In all, scientists have identified 62 species of mammals, more than 320 birds, 13 reptiles and amphibians, and more than 30 species of fish in the zapovednik. Many of these species have narrow ranges, and are considered rare or endemic to the southern Far East region. Rare and endangered animals protected in the zapovednik include the Siberian tiger, Asiatic black bear, and Himalayan chamois. Rare birds include Chinese merganser (Mergus squamatus), mandarin duck (Aix galericulata), white-tailed sea eagle, Siberian spruce grouse (Falcipennis falcipennis), and Blakiston's fish owl.


Nearly 99% of Sikhote-Alinsky zapovednik is forested, and vertical gradations of vegetation types are clearly visible. As the mountains ascend from the sea, the narrow strip of coastal plants and shrubs gives way to a wide band of oak forests dotted with open meadows. Higher up, mixed broadleaf and pine forests are replaced by fir and spruce. Thickets of mountain pine (Pinus pumila) and alpine tundra vegetation dominate mountain tops. Siberian pine (P. sibirica) and broadleaf forests are especially diverse with multiple layers of vegetation, mainly of Manchurian flora types. Many forms of deciduous trees are endemic to the area.

Coniferous forests dominate in the Sikhote-Alinsky Zapovednik - Korean pine (P. koraiensis), mountain pine, Yeddo spruce (Picea ajanensis), and Khingam fir (Abies nephrolepis) are the most common types of evergreen trees. Two species of larch (Larix spp.) are found in remote mountain areas and along the coast. In the valleys of larch forests, Japanese elm (Ulmus japonica) grows up to 30 meters tall, while its smaller relative, Manchurian elm (U. laciniata), sprouts in pine stands. Mongolian oak (Quercus mongolica), which grows in impenetrably thick stands near the Pacific coast, is the only representative of its family found in the zapovednik. Eleven species of birch grow in the reserve, including Dahurian birch (Betula dahurica) - found in dry oak-pine forests, and yellow birch (B. costata) - found in shady pine-broadleaf forests. Erman's birch (B. ermanii) is common in alpine areas. Manchurian walnut (Juglans mandshurica) spreads its wide crown in the valleys of broadleaf forests. Its thick-shelled walnuts contain more than 50% fat. Japanese poplar (Populus maximowiczii) trees, with their massive column-like trunks, line river valleys. Four species of maple, including mono maple (Acer mono), yellow maple (A. ukurunduense), Amur maple (A. ginnala), and manchus maple (A. tegmentosum) are found in the reserve; their crowns transform into a beautiful kaleidoscopic of gold, orange, and red in autumn.

Lovely green shoots from the ancient club-moss family (Lycopodium spp.) spring from the ground under a shady canopy of fir, spruce, and pine. Ferns form a bright green layer on the forest floor. Brake fern (Pteridium aquilinum), common in birch and oak forests, is widely used as a food item in the Russian Far East and Asia. Buckler and oak ferns (Dryopteris spp.) are common in coniferous forests, while the ancient sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis) prefers moist forested valleys. The large, colorful blossoms of lilies, orchids, and irises paint meadows in pearly-white, pink, violet, and red. Many of these flowers have medicinal uses.

The only representative of the ancient yew family is the endangered Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata), found individually in the shady understory of coniferous-broadleaf forests. A few small groves of Japanese yew flank the upper reaches of the Shanduisky and Nechet rivers, as well as the coastal area near Molenny Pass. Daurian juniper (Juniperus daurica) and mountain cypress (J. sibirica) grow on rocky passes and mountain tops in shrub-like forms, tolerant to harsh soil and climate conditions.

Although plant life in the zapovednik has yet to be researched in its entirety, scientists have identified more than 1000 species of higher plants, 214 species of lichens, 100 species of mosses, and 384 species of mushrooms. The zapovednik harbors many rare species of plants, listed in the Russian Red Book. Two species of rhododendrons (Rhododendron sichotense, R. faurieri) are endangered, as well as lady's slipper and yellow lady's slipper (Cypripedium macranthon, C. calceolus), and three kinds of peonies (Paeonia spp.). Seventeen species of plants are considered rare in the Russian Far East and Primorye Province, including those used medicinally or for decoration such as Chinese magnolia vine (Schisandra chinensis) and rose-root stone-crop (Rhodiola rosea).

Geographical Features

Sikhote-Alinsky is the largest zapovednik in the southern half of the Russian Far East. The reserve is located in the remote northeastern portion of the Primorye Province, encompassing the Eastern and Western slopes of the Middle Sikhote-Alin Mountain Range and a stretch of coastline of the Sea of Japan.

Mountains recede into mountains as far as the eye can see, divided only by the fissures of valleys and canyons. A closer looks reveals that steep slopes are covered with a chaotic tumbling of rocks and boulders, while more gentle slopes are carpeted with lush green forests. Within the labyrinth of mountains, ridges, and spurs of similar height, a few tall peaks lunge above the landscape like islands in a turbulent sea. The tallest of such "islands" in the reserve is the Glukhmanka Peak, reaching 1,598 meters above the nearby sea. The giant peak towers above the chain of lower mountains, which ranges from 500 to 800 meters above sea level. Mountains occupy more than 80% of the zapovednik. The remainder is nearly flat bottoms of valleys and a thin strip of seashore. On much of the coast, the mountains fall abruptly into the sea, in places sheer cliffs drop 100 meters or more. At the mouths of the Serebryanka and Dzigitovka rivers, wide valleys open onto the sea. Water collects in swamps and lakes in these lowlands.

The largest river on the western slopes of the zapovednik is the Kolumbe, which flows into the Ussuri River. The mountain river has an unusually calm current with many wide sandy bends. Many creeks and streams flow from the mountains, fed by the large amounts of precipitation caused by the proximity of the sea. More than 80% of precipitation falls during the summer rainy season, and August is the wettest month of the year. In wintertime, cold northern winds blow down to meet the warm sea air, causing persistent winds from the northwest. The first snows fall in the high mountains in late September and early October. A white coat usually cloaks the slopes and valleys from the end of November to April, when spring thaws send meltwater rushing down to the sea.

Conservation Status

Although six times smaller now than pre-1951, when Stalin shook the zapovednik system with a wave of reserve closures and territorial changes, Sikhote-Alinsky remains the largest zapovednik in the Primorye Province Extending like a sea of untouched forests for tens of miles, the reserve is filled with all forms of life. No other zapovednik in the southern half of the Russian Far East parallels Sikhote-Alinsky's remoteness from centers of human activity. Humans have not visited some parts of the zapovednik for many years. The pristine state of Sikhote-Alinsky's ecosystems was brought to the attention of the international community when UNESCO awarded the reserve biosphere status.

The shrinking of Sikhote-Alinsky's territory in 1951 has resulted in the weakening of the reserve's role in preserving the endangered Siberian tiger. The territories of several tigers that inhabit the reserve go well beyond its borders, complicating the zapovednik's efforts to protect the species. Although some scientists argue that the area of Sikhote-Alinsky Zapovednik should be restored to its pre-1951 size, more realistic activists call for the reserve to be enlarged to twice its current size. The wide valley of the Dzhigitovka River to the south of the reserve should be added in order to increase protection of territories of individual tigers, as well as the Tayozhnaya and Kema river basins to the north to preserve important brown bear habitat.

Considering that the range of a male tiger can be anywhere from 600-1000 square kilometers, protection of the animals within zapovedniks alone is not enough. Poaching and habitat loss due to logging in the Primorye region must be brought under control to save the species.  Siberian tigers number around 450, according to annual census data. Sikhote-Alinsky Zapovednik plays the most significant role of any reserve in the Russian Far East in protecting Siberian tigers and their natural habitat.


Zapovedniks of the USSR: Zapovedniks of the Far East. Sokolov, V.E., and E.E. Syroechkovsky, Eds. Mysl publishing agency. Moscow, 1985.

Zapovedniks and National Parks of Russia. Zabelina, N.M., L.S. Isaeva-Petrova, and L.V. Kuleshova. Logata publishing agency. Moscow, 1988.

Text written by Laura Williams.


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