Sikhote-Alin comprises one of the most extraordinary temperate zones in the world. Species typical of northern taiga (such as reindeer and the brown bear) coexist with tropical species, the Amur leopard, Siberian tiger, and the Himalayan bear. The region holds very few wolves, due to competition with tigers. The oldest tree in the region is a millennium-old Japanese yew.
In the 1910s and 1920s, Sikhote-Alin was extensively explored by Vladimir Arsenyev (1872–1930) who described his adventures in several books, notably Dersu Uzala (1923), which in 1975 was turned into an Oscar-winning film by Akira Kurosawa. The large Sikhote-Alin and Lazo wildlife refuges were set up in 1935 to preserve the region's unusual wildlife.
In 2001, UNESCO placed Sikhote-Alin onto the World Heritage List, citing its importance for "the survival of endangered species such as the Chinese Merganser, Blakiston's Fish Owl, and the Amur tiger". World Heritage Area has a total area of , of which the terrestrial core zone of Sikhote-Alin Zapovednik comprises . The core zone can only be explored in a company of rangers.