Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Endangered species of Russian wildlife

Wildlife in danger in Russia

Although Russia is such a massive country with so many forms of natural habitat and countless types of flora and fauna, it is also home to the last surviving populations of many endangered species of wildlife. Hunting, habitat loss, pollution, pesticides and Climate Change have taken their toll just like in so many parts of the world today.  But let us look at some of the incredible creatures found in Russia whose very survival is threatened.

Siberian Tiger

Siberian Tiger (Photo: Public Domain)

The Siberian Tiger or Amur Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), lives as its names suggest in Siberia and specifically in the Amur region.  It is the largest type of big cat in the world. In the 1940s it was threatened with extinction but due to conservation efforts the species has made a recovery, although numbers are still very low and an estimated number of 562 Siberian Tigers is all that are left. The Siberian Tiger's Conservation Status is "Endangered". 

Siberian Tiger Quest in 2012

Oriental Stork

The Oriental Stork (Cyconia boyciana) is a truly beautiful bird that is now an endangered species with only about 400 pairs left. It used to live in China, Japan and Korea, as well as Russia, but it is believed to be extinct in Korea and Japan. 

Oriental Stork (Photo: Spaceaero2)

The Oriental Stork's decline has been attributed to hunting and habitat loss and the species is listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as "Endangered".

The Russian Desman

Drawing of the Siberian Desman (Photo: Public Domain)

The Russian Desman (Desmana moschata) is really a type of semiaquatic mole. It is one of the two surviving species of desman, with the Pyrenean Desman (Galemys pyrenaicus) being the other. Although nowhere near as badly in decline in numbers as the Siberian Tiger and Oriental Stork, the Russian Desman has a "Vulnerable" Conservation Status and is down from 70.000 in the 1970s to just 35,000 in 2004.  This species was once hunted for its fur but nowadays pollution, loss of habitat and invasive species, such as the Muskrat, are threats to its survival.

Russian Desman

It is found along the banks of ponds and streams in the Volga, Don and Ural River basins. It lives in small groups and burrows in the banks of where it is living. The Russian Desman feeds on fish, amphibians, insects and crayfish.

Saiga Antelope

Saiga Antelope (Photo: Seilov)

The Saiga Antelope (Saiga tartarica) is an antelope species that is listed today as "Critically Endangered."  It once formed massive herds and lived in a vast area of the Eurasian steppes. It is now only found in one part of Russia and three areas in Kazakhstan.  It is extinct in China and southwestern Mongolia. 

This antelope was hunted in very large numbers and its horn is popular in Chinese traditional medicine. It has been used as a substitute for rhinoceros horn. Hunting of rhinos and Saigas for the superstitious belief  that the horns of these animals have miraculous powers has caused a terrible decline in numbers of these mammals.

Why did the Saigas die? 

The Saiga is also prone to unexplained die-offs when large numbers of the animals drop dead. Many Saigas died like this in die-offs every year between 2010 and 2014. It is bad enough that humans have taken such a terrible toll on this species without mysterious mortalities killing them like this too.

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