The Crimean Natural Reserve is situated in the central part of the mountainous Crimea, near the bottom of Mount Babugan, on the yayla and partially on the southern slope of the Main Ridge. This is the largest natural area of protection at the peninsula (34,000 sq km or 13,130 sq miles). The Natural Reserve was established 150 years ago and first intended for imperial hunting, then became a hunting field for the USSR leaders and foreign guests of the State.
The Crimean Natural Reserve is closed to the public. If you want to visit it, you can go to a very interesting Museum of Nature in Alushta that is designed with good taste and scientific certainty. Its expositions tell about the history of the Reserve, its staff and their work on preservation of flora and fauna, and scientific and research activities of several generations of scientists. The perfectly made dioramas represent the life of protected forests and plants on the mountainous plateaus, show the exclusively wonderful landscapes of the mountainous and forest Crimea. The Museum tours are accompanied with the chant of birds tape-recorded in the spring forest.
The arboretum is opened next to the Museum. It is 6 hectares (14.83 arches) in area and has 160 kinds of trees and bushes and 170 kinds of herbs. Animals and birds, the most interesting inhabitants of the Crimean forest, live in cages and nest boxes.
The Natural Reserve allows now to guide tours within the preserved area as well.
Primeval forests of oaks, beeches and pines occupy almost 95% of the protected area. Only the yayla's patches and few meadows are bare. The Reserve flora comprises near 1,150 species (44% of the entire flora in the Crimea) including a range of plants that are endemic for the Crimea (Maple of Steven (Acer stevenii), Chickweed of Bieberstein, Cockhead of Yayla, Ash-tree Onion (Allium meliophilum), etc.). Giant trees such as oak, yew, alder can be met in the forest. The Reserve has more than 200 huge trees. The thickest tree, linden with a trunk of about 6.5 m (21.33 ft) in perimeter, grows in the Ulu-Uzen River valley.
Deer, roe, mountain fox, badger and other mammals, 40 species in total, inhabit the reserved forests. Corsican moufflon, Altaic squirrel, Far Eastern boar have successfully naturalized here. Many rare animals and plants are red-listed.
The reserved forests are proud of Crimean deer. This is the largest and most beautiful animal of the mountainous Crimea. In order to preserve the forest area, the number of animals such as deers, roes, wild boars, moufflons is kept at the necessary level.
The only aboriginal area where Crimean birch grows is situated within the Reserve, on the mountain slopes near the waterfall named after Nikolai Golovkinsky, a researcher of the Crimea. Each of these northern beauties is a living heiress of the long-ago Ice Age when the vast snow fields formed on the yaylas under severe climatic conditions of the region. Gradually, while it was getting warmer and warmer, birch became extinct and had only survived in small groves in the most hard-to-get, shaded and wet areas of the Main Ridge.
It was a funny thing but it was not a botanist who first discovered a birch in the Crimea but the Great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin while in 1820 passing the Main Ridge through the Shaitan-Merdven Pass or Devil's Stairs.
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