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An animal kingdom in Europe is disappearing

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An animal kingdom in Europe

is disappearing

Facts and Figures about Species decline in Europe

Compiled by the WWF European Forest Programme April 2003

The violent change in forest quantity and quality over the last few centuries has brought a great number of forest dwelling species to the verge of extinction. Many species are about to disappear from several European countries, perhaps from the whole continent. Many forest animals are dependent for their survival on natural and undisturbed forests for their habitat and their prey base. They are vulnerable to forest roads criss crossing their territories, hunting, human settlements and logging activity which disturbs them and their prey and deprives them of their natural habitat.
Half of Europe’s Forests have already disappeared. Natural forests and those richest in biodiversity are in decline. Europe’s forest protected area network is not sufficient and does not ensure long-term protection of all forest types and associated species. Endangered animal and plant species are still struggling to survive in protected areas that are either too small or too widely scattered
Unique habitats have been lost and thousands of forest dwelling species have become endangered. Forest dwelling species in temperate and boreal forests in Europe are threatened at an alarmingly high level. Among mammals, typically 20-50% and among birds 15-40% of forest dwelling species were categorised as threatened as part of a UN/ECE/FAO assessment of the temperate and boreal forests of the world.
Europe has already lost the wild horse or tarpan and the European bison and is now trying to reintroduce them. Today, with less than 200 living in Portugal and Spain, the Iberian Lynx is now the worlds most endangered big cat and is on the brink of extinction. The Siberian Amur tiger with 450 animals remaining, is endangered. The wolf, once abundant across Europe today only exists in threatened remnant populations and listed as vulnerable. The populations of Imperial Eagle, Bonelli Eagle, Capercaillie and Black Stork have been severly declining due to loss of natural undisturbed forests and hunting. Most of Europe’s remaining wolves, bears and European lynx can today be found in Eastern Europe. This reflects the large tracts of undisturbed forests that still exist in these countries and require urgent protection. Carnivores can be seen as “barometers” of the health of the environment, requiring large forests for their habitat with plentiful prey species.

The loss of original forest in selected countries

The data in this figure has been compiled from the following sources: lost forest cover – European Forests and Protected Areas: Gap Analysis. UNEP – World Conservation Monitoring Centre. July 2000; current forest cover – Temperate and Boreal Forest Resource Assessment (TBRFA) 2000; plantations & pristine forests – Temperate and Boreal Forest Resource Assessment (TBRFA) 2000& WWF European Forest Scorecards 2000.

Threatened mammals

Source: Temperate and Boreal Forest Resource Assessment (TBRFA) 2000

Threatened Birds

Source: Temperate and Boreal Forest Resource Assessment (TBRFA) 2000


  1. WOLF (Canis lupus)

  2. SIBERIAN TIGER / AMUR TIGER (Panthera tigris altaica)

  3. IMPERIAL EAGLE (Aquila heliaca)

  4. BONELLI EAGLE (Hieraaetus fasciatus)

  5. CAPERCAILLIE (Tetrao urogallus)

  6. BLACK STORK (Ciconia nigra)

  7. FIR ( Abies alba)

  8. IBERIAN LYNX (Lynx pardinus)

  9. EURASIAN LYNX (Lynx lynx)

  10. BEAR (Ursus arctos)

WOLF (Canis lupus)

Status :CITES Listed Appendix II

Original distribution

The wolf had the largest distribution area of any terrestrial mammal worldwide in recent historical times. It occupied the whole Northern Hemisphere north of 20 N, including the entire North American continent, Eurasia and Japan. Following extermination efforts by man, the species' range is greatly reduced today. Originally found throughout Europe, at the end of the 18th century, wolves were still present in all European countries with the exception of Great Britain and Ireland.

Distribution more recent

During the 19th century, and especially in the years following the Second World War, wolves were exterminated from all central and northern European countries. During the sixties, wolf distribution was smaller than it is today, with small remnant populations in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, and Finland, and more numerous populations in the east.

In the last twenty years, the species has been recovering naturally in several parts of Europe: a positive, though uncertain trend of re-colonisation of France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and Norway.


  • Hunting

  • Poaching

  • Human encroachment

  • Habitat fragmentation

Wolves require large spaces away from human settlement. Today the main refuges for wolves are in northern European countries and in Eastern European countries with larger tracts of virgin forests

Specially threatened – wolves in Norway

In the mid 20th century almost exterminated, coming back over the last few years. In 2001 approximately 13-18 wolves were tracked in Norway.

The national board of the Norwegian Forest Owners' Federation, which controls 78 per cent of the country's timber sales, has declared that it will not tolerate any breeding wolves in Norway and is calling for the extermination of all breeding wolves in Norway.
It has also called for bear, lynx and wolverine populations to be reduced.
More information can be found on

The wolf has totally disappeared in Switzerland, GB, Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium. Austria: rarely, only single individuals, no population!


  • Preserve natural forests areas that are large enough to provide a habitat for wolves, away from human settlement – network of protected areas of adequate size and quality - in particular Network of protected areas in the Carpathians

  • Preserve the natural wealth in Eastern Europe. Make protected areas affordable for Eastern countries

  • Stop forest owners shooting the last wolves in Norway

  • Raising public awareness and acceptance

  • Stop poaching

Current numbers of wolves

Bulgaria: 800 -1000 - population trend neutral/stable

Romania: 2500 - population trend positive

Latvia: 900 - population trend neutral/stable

Estonia: less than 500 - population trend negative

Lithuania: 600 - population trend positive

Sweden: 50-70 - population trend positive

Finland: 100 - population trend neutral/stable

Norway 13 – 18 - population trend negative/ highly threatened through hunting

Poland: 600-700 - population trend positive

Czech Republic: less than 20 - population trend positive

Hungary: less than 50 - population trend neutral/stable

Slovakia: 350-400 - population trend neutral/stable

Slovenia: 30-50 - population trend positive

Source: Action Plan for the Conservation of Wolves in Europe (2000)

Croatia: 100-150 - population trend positive

SFR- Former Yugoslavia: 1000 - population trend neutral/stable

Bosnia-Herzegovina: 400 - population trend negative/decreasing

Belarus: 2000-2500 - population trend neutral/stable

Ukraine: 2000 - population trend neutral/stable

Germany: 5-10 - population trend neutral

France: 30-40 - population trend positive

Italy: 400-500 - population trend positive

Spain: 2000 - population trend positive

Portugal: 200-300 - population trend neutral/stable

Switzerland: none

Greece: 1500-2000 - population trend neutral/stable

Macedonia: 1000 - population trend positive

Albania: 250 - population trend positive

Source: Large Carnivore Initiative

SIBERIAN TIGER / AMUR TIGER (Panthera tigris altaica)

Status: IUCN: red list status: endangered
Original distribution

  • Initially in the 19th century not more than a third of the habitat dwelled by the Amur tiger belonged to the Russian Far East. At the end of the 19th century the Russian population number around 500 individuals.

  • With the beginning of the 20th century.(around 1940s) a period of profound decline began leaving the Russian tiger population at less than 50 individuals.

  • Between 1950s and 1980s a partial restoration of Amur tiger range: the population grew up to 250.

  • At the present time the basic habitat of the Amur tiger (90%) is restricted to the Russian Far East where the tiger population became stabilized by 400-450 individuals.

Source: WWF Russia

Current distribution in Europe

Russia: 450 in the Russian Far East
Major threats
  • Increased logging and construction of roads. The forests outside the protected areas are being exploited unsustainably for timber and other forest products. Large-scale cutting of oak and pine forests -- prime autumn-winter habitat for wild boars -- is a very serious concern. Also being heavily logged are the floodplain forests, which serve as the tiger's main hunting ground during summers. Logging roads are being laid in vulnerable areas, such as small river and creek beds. Not only are these roads environmentally intrusive, they also provide easy access to poachers and hunters.

  • Forest fires. Of late, forest fires have destroyed vast areas of forests in the Russian Far East. Serious forest fire outbreaks occurred in 1998 and 1999.

  • Poaching and Illegal trade. Poaching currently represents the most immediate threat to wildlife. Increasing numbers of tigers are killed for their pelts and tiger parts, especially bones, needed for traditional Asian medicine. Tiger pelts fetch over US$5,000, and bones up to US$3,000 per kg, making them attractive items in this economically stressed region.

  • Unplanned industrial development. The current fast pace of economic deregulation and absence of long-term resource management plans are imposing new threats on the whole region, in particular on Siberian tigers. The current political and economic situation (Mass unemployment, low salary level,...) has resulted in an accelerated exploitation of resources in the region, Unplanned industrial development, especially timber harvesting and mining, destroys or degrades the critical habitat of these animals. It is essential that a landscape-scale strategy for tiger conservation, incorporating a system of core reserves, habitat corridors, and buffer zones that allow varying degrees of resource exploitation, and indigenous reserves, be developed.


The Amur Tiger, the biggest cat in the World, was near extinction (30-40 specimen) in 1940s. Many efforts and decades were needed to increase its number up to 450 individuals. But at the same time we had lost more than 1/3 of its historical range in North East China, Korea Peninsula and on the left bank of Amur River.

The modern distribution of Amur tiger at Sikhote-Alin mountains covers 15 million hectares, and about 1,3 million hectares of them were under the protection of different level nature protected areas (NPA). From 1990, WWF family has been working actively to stabilize the situation in cooperation with Russian Government, regional agencies, and other international environmental organizations, mostly by the anti-poaching emergency actions.
The Amur region of the Russian Far East contains the most biologically diverse forests in Russia. They are among the most diverse non-tropical forests in the world. Because much of the region has escaped periods of glaciation, it became a climatic refuge for numerous species and communities now found nowhere else in Russia, or the world. This level of endemism, combined with the region's unique biogeographic location, has resulted in unusual assemblages of plants and animals. Siberian tigers, Amur leopards, and Himalayan black bears are found, together with reindeer, sable, wild boar, brown bears, lynx, and salmon. The forests contain numerous edible and medicinal plants, including wild berries, Siberian pine nuts, wild ginseng, other medicinal herbs, and mushrooms, providing natural resources for several indigenous populations.

Wildlife populations in the Amur region are declining rapidly in the face of intense poaching pressure and habitat loss. The threat posed to species such as the Siberian tiger and Amur leopard is of global significance. The Russian Far East region of Primorski Krai and Khabarovsk Krai represents the last remaining habitat of Siberian tigers. Current estimates of tiger numbers range from 200 to 300. Only strict protection measures for their population and habitat will allow recovery.

  • Create new nature protected areas to implement the Strategy for Conservation of the Amur tiger in Russia

  • Adopt the legislative base to implement the new forms of nature protected areas and create the precedents of ecological corridors to form the Econet in Amur tiger range.

  • Provide starting support for newly established nature protected areas and create opportunities for sustainability of Amur Tiger Econet.

  • Prevent illegal logging and illegal hunting and provide information about illegal trade. At the same time the socio-economical situation of the area has to be considered.

  • Increase public awareness of Amur Tiger Econet program and minimize human-tiger conflicts.

IMPERIAL EAGLE (Aquila heliaca)

Status: IUCN-Red List: vulnerable
Population estimate: 2,500-10,000/ Population trend: Decreasing
It is a lowland species that has been pushed to higher altitudes by persecution and habitat loss. In central and eastern Europe, it breeds in forests up to 1,000 m and also in steppe and agricultural areas with large trees. In the Caucasus, it occurs in lowland and riverine forests and semi-deserts. Birds seem to prefer wetlands for wintering.

Aquila heliaca is a typical forest dweller. It breeds in Slovakia, Croatia, Yugoslavia, FYRO Macedonia, Greece (probable), Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and China.

Main European Distribution in Spain and Eastern-Europe

In Austria the last successful breeding pair was reported in 1810. After a period of 190 years the next successful brood was reported in 2000, followed by a breeding attempt in 2001 and an other successful brood in 2002.

Passage or wintering birds from eastern populations occur in the Middle East, east Africa south to Tanzania, the Arabian peninsula, the Indian subcontinent and south and east Asia. Some European birds winter in Greece and Turkey. The population is probably only a few thousand pairs. There has been a rapid decline in Europe and probably in Asia. In Europe, the non-Russian population is estimated at 224-318 pairs, with populations in Hungary5 and Slovakia now increasing. The population in European Russia may total 600-900 pairs1 and in Kazakhstan 750-800 pairs2. Although currently stable, the Russian population is predicted to decline in the next three to five years3.


Major threats

  • Habitat Loss/Degradation - Agriculture (ongoing)

  • Habitat Loss/Degradation - Extraction (ongoing)

  • Human disturbance (ongoing)

  • Harvesting (hunting/gathering) (ongoing)

  • Biggest problem in Austria: illegal hunting (2003: 1 bird shot, 1 bird poisoned)

  • Accidental mortality (ongoing)

It is estimated that this species' small population has declined by more than 10% in three generations, primarily as a result of the loss of mature native forest and persecution in parts of Europe and probably in Asia. This qualifies it as Vulnerable.

  • Implement beneficial forestry policies.

  • Maintain large trees in open land and protect old slope woodland

  • Prevent mortality from nest robbing, illegal trade, and poisoning and powerlines.

  • Conduct surveys to identify breeding and wintering sites, and migration routes.

  • Improve protection of species and sites.

  • Increase the availability of prey species.

  • Raise public awareness.

BONELLI EAGLE (Hieraaetus fasciatus)

Status:. It is listed on Annex I of the EU Wild Birds Directive and Appendix II of the Bern and Bonn Conventions and CITES convention.

Bonelli's Eagle inhabits Mediterranean landscapes with low or little vegetation, the species is almost totally absent from mountainous areas or dense forests. Prey species mainly comprise mammals and medium-sized birds. Resident.

Large decline throughout almost all of its European range, with a global population now numbering less than 2500 pairs.

The European population numbers 862-1072 breeding pairs. Spain holds about 65% of the European population, the rest having an irregular distribution in the Mediterranean basin.

Major threats:

  • Habitat loss and destruction

  • Food loss

  • Human disturbance (at nest sites)

  • Persecution

  • Electrocution

New infrastructures, constructions and associated activities (reservoirs, quarries, mining and built developments) can cause irreversible habitat loss. In Spain 20% of territory desertions result from such developments. Forestry operations also cause problems, e.g. in Portugal. Loss of mixed farming in favour of increased specialisation is expected to be a serious factor in future.

  • Elimination of direct persecution by the enforcement of existing hunting and conservation regulations - essential

  • Identification and modification of dangerous powerlines which have caused Bonelli's Eagle deaths - essential

  • Protection is required in the most important breeding and dispersal areas, with designation of key IBAs as SPA to be included in the NATURA 2000 network and subject to management plans - high

  • Promotion of land-use policies to avoid deterioration of breeding and dispersal habitat (and disturbance) - high

  • Increase prey populations by strengthening and enforcing hunting regulations and regulation of hunting activities - high

  • Development and implementation of a programme to monitoring population size, distribution and trends, juvenile dispersion, causes of mortality, etc.) - high/medium

  • Undertake public awareness and educational campaigns - medium

More information:

CAPERCAILLIE (Tetrao urogallus)

Original distribution

In former times capercaillie lived all over Europe and northern Asia, from the Pyrenaen Mountains to East Siberia and from Balkany through the Polar Circle. In the last 100 years strong reduction of the popultation. Only small remnant populations remain.

Distribution current

The biggest populations are found in Scandinavia and Northern and Eastern Russia.

However forest fragmentation and increase of young forests in the Southern Finland have collapsed the population of Capercaillie by 60 % during last 40 years.
Capercaillie today generally breed throughout much of Norway, Sweden and Finland, except the higher mountains and extreme north, and in the Baltic States, Belarus and across Russia to the Urals. Also scattered populations exist elsewhere in Europe, mainly in mountain areas.

Small population exists but is in decline in Scotland (reintroduced after extinction). Also exists in the Cantabrian Mts, Pyrenees and Alps, the Dinaric Alps and Carpathians with smaller pockets in various upland areas of Europe such as the Jura and Moravian Mts. Its range is very reduced compared to former times and the bird is rare or locally extinct in many areas. The reintroduced population in Scotland is under particular threat having declined drastically in recent years. In addition the species has been reintroduced to parts of Germany.


Source: EC Bird Directive

Very much a forest bird, it prefers coniferous forests, beech and oak groves, in mountainous areas as well as flat land. The species feeds on fruits, seeds and insects.
Population in Europe : about 200,000 pairs

Switzerland 1100 males

Germany 1600 males;

Poland no figures, some isolated single pairs on remaining areals
France 5700 individuals;

Czech Republic minimum 500 males

Slowakia no numbers

Austria 10.000 males (1967) since then decreasing

Former Yugoslavia no figures, decreasing

Romania 7000-9500 individuals (doubtful)

Bulgaria 3000 males (1980)

Great Britain reintroduction in 1837, no current figures

Spain Kantabrian Mountains 580 males

Source: Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas (Bezzel,1985)


  • Habitat deterioration due to monoculture forests. Capercaillie need open forests with a variety of tree species, clearings, various grasses, blackberry and cranberry bushes to feed.

  • Destruction of habitat due to forestry operations and the construction of roads.

  • Hunting/poaching

  • Disturbances during the breeding period

  • Disturbance of the last remote areas by tourism industry and leisure industry (skiers, mountainbikers, hikers).


  • Protection of habitats

  • Elimination of disturbance

  • Salvation and/or creation of quiet, bio diverse forests, with a variety of bushes and grassland to provide nourishment for Capercaillie.


BLACK STORK (Ciconia nigra)
Status: uncommon to rare; listed in Appendix II of CITES and Bern Convention

The European breeding population is estimated about 500-600 pairs.

Austria: 80-100 breeding pairs (slightly increasing)
In most of Europe the Black Stork requires areas of mature undisturbed forest with streams, ponds and wet meadows. In the east of the region may breed in more open areas with large old nesting trees. In mountainous parts of range, including Spain, will nest on cliff-faces and rocky crags. On passage feeds along freshwater margins and in wet meadows. Escaping cultivated landscapes. The birds feed principally on fish, amphibians, reptilians and insect. Migrant.

Migrates to tropical Africa for the winter, crossing the Mediterranean mainly in the east but some at Gibraltar and a few are seen on spring passage in Tunisia. Most leave Europe early August-September, the peak period at the Bosphorus is September-early October. Returning birds arrive in Europe late March-April.

Recorded as a vagrant north to Iceland and Scandinavia, most European countries outside breeding range, various Mediterranean islands, the Canaries, Azores and Madeira. British records are increasing (< 150) as Continental populations expand, mainly in the east and south in spring/summer, particularly April-June.

Distribution current/ per country
Middle East until the Pacific, Eastern Europe, Parts of Southern Europe; in the 20th century population is slightly increasing.

A small and isolated breeding population in central Iberia is partially resident. The remainder of the population are summer visitors to central and eastern Europe from eastern Germany and the Czech Republic east to the Baltic States and Russia. Also breeds discontinuously south to Greece and northern Turkey and in the Caucasus. In recent decades has begun to increase and range is slowly expanding. Small numbers breed in eastern France and in recent decades has begun to breed in Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark and Italy.

yellow=migrant Source: EC Bird Directive,


  • Intensification of land-use, change of natural forests into commercial harvested forests.

  • Disturbance through logging work and visitors during breeding time. The direct negative effects are related to forestry - the changes in the structures of the forests due to forest management, the cutting off of the residual old forests.

  • Drainage of meadows and swampy forests. If groundwater - table is lowered, lakes - feeding places - disappeare there.

  • River regulation. The river training works began in the 19th century. As a result of that the bends of the rivers were cut off, so the reach shortened and the slope of the riverbed increased. This caused riverbed erosion and the deepening of the riverbed. That is why the floods are not inundating the floodplains so often now then in the past and the floodplain lakes and dead branches can not get enough water.

  • Collision with powerlines and collectors.

FIR (Abies alba)

Distribution originally
20.000 years ago the distribution of the fir was limited to the Balkan, the Pyrenean Mountains and the Italian Apennine. Gradual spread out via upper Italy to the Southern Alps. In the recent 5000 years distribution over entire Central Europe to the Carpathian Mountains.
Distribution today

Since the 60ies massive reduction of fir population. The fir is a very sensitive indicator of pollution and forest mismanagement (regeneration in clear cuttings is hardly possible) and dies out or can’t develop young crops anymore. In the last 100 years loss of 50% of the fir population in the last 10 years reduction of fir population mainly in the Northern Alps up to 7% in mountainous areas and 11% in the midlands.

Today the fir-areas range from the Swiss Jura in the west to mid-Poland in the north, the Carpathians in the east and the Apennine in the south. The largest patches of fir can be found in Switzerland (11%), Slovenia (10%), Austria (7%), Greece (13%) and Romania (3%). The Fir needs moist soils in mountainous areas and mixed forests from an altitude of 600-900 meters - in some places up to 1400 meters and more. Tolerant to shadow in the youth. When space in the forest roof opens up and gives more light, it rapidly grows up and reaches by and by it’s full height (up to 60m) and age (150-600 years). This manner is called ”oscar-syndrom”, named by “The Tin Drum” by Gunter Grass.

Distribution of Abies alba


  • Air pollution,

  • Forest mismanagement, clear cutting and monoculture,

  • Draught, late frosts

  • Browse impact (by deer, chamois and roe deer).


  • Sustainable silvicultural management, creation of biodiverse, mixed forests, that provide the needed microclimate for the fir.

  • No clear cutting, selected thinning, individual tree cutting, prolongation of life cycle (cutting of adult trees only (120 years min)).

  • Reduction of game population (ungulates – roe deer, chamois, deer) prevents browsing damage at young firs.

  • Appreciation of the qualities of fir wood by the saw industry and the single user, increased sustainable plantation.

IBERIAN LYNX (Lynx pardinus)
The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is classified by the World Union for Nature (IUCN) as the world’s most endangered feline species. In October 2002, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species upgraded the lynx to Critically Endangered following new evidence of alarming decline.
Originally, the Iberian Lynx was found West of the Pyrenees all over Spain and Portugal. In the 80s the population size was estimated at 1100 animals. Today this number has declined to less than 200 animals. The Iberian Lynx is close to becoming the first wild cat species to go extinct.

In Spain´s Doñana and Sierra de Andújar (Eastern Sierra Morena) the estimated population is around 150 individuals. Isolated individuals are surviving in East Montes de Toledo, Western Sistema Central and Western Sierra Morena. In Portugal, new evidence not only reinforces the presence of lynx in the country but also points to the animal’s existence in areas where it was previously considered extinct.

In the 1980s: 1100 animals

Source: Delibes M. Rodriguez A. and Ferreras P.(2000) Action PLan for the Conservation of the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus). Council of Europe.

Today: less than 200 animals in 2 breeding places

Source: WWF Spain and WWF Medpo

Major threats to the Iberian Lynx
There are four main threats that affect this critically endangered feline:

  1. The destruction or alteration of its habitat, the Mediterranean forest and scrub.

  2. The isolation and the fragmentation of its populations. These are already very small and are becoming increasingly isolated, due to the construction of public works like highways or dams. They are creating new barriers between populations.

  3. The shortage of its basic prey, the rabbit, due to habitat loss and to the different epidemics that it has suffered since the fifties (Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease, the RHD).

  4. Human influence through poaching, hunting, traps, car accidents.

Habitat and prey loss
The Iberian lynx is dependent on a mosaic of habitats ranging from grassland to shrubland to forests. This diversity of habitats has historically been maintained by traditional agroforestry systems based on the management of cork and holm oak forests. In these forests, activities of livestock raising, firewood gathering, fruit collection and cork extraction that constitute an agroforestry system have ensured a diverse mosaic of shrub and pasture land which is best suited for the lynx and the wild rabbits it preys on. Now, agricultural subsidies are promoting the development of monocultures and plantations, thus simplifying the landscape. Land use changes, such as rural abandonment and infrastructure development, have fragmented habitat for both the lynx and for the wild rabbits. The balance between rural economy and the ecosystem which has existed for centuries in the Mediterranean is threatened and with it the lynx.
Local communities who fear a decrease in their incomes through cork harvesting try to find alternative sources of revenue and take advantage of environmentally damaging EU subsidies. Already, large tracts of land that were once Mediterranean cork and holm oak forests are now eucalyptus and pine plantations.
“The challenge is to maintain the diversity of habitats, ranging from pastureland to grassland to forest, that the lynx needs for its survival. We need to find innovative economically viable ways to secure the balance between various agroforestry activities without intensifying one use or the other", said Pedro Regato, Head of the Forest Unit at WWF Mediterranean.

The cork oak forests also host a rich variety of wildlife, including endangered species such as Barbary deer (Cervus elaphus barbarus) in Tunisia, Sardinian deer (Cervus elaphus corsicanus) in Italy, Iberian imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti) and Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) in Spain and Portugal.

Portugal may soon loose its last lynxes
The construction of the Odelouca Dam in South Portugal is a concrete example where fragmentation of the lynx´s habitat may threaten its survival. Planned to be constructed inside a Natura 2000 area it is placed amidst mixed-oak forests which are ideal habitat for the Iberian Lynx. Construction of the dam would result in the continued loss of the characteristic mosaic landscapes that support the Iberian Lynx.

Substitution of large expanses of habitats of primarily shrublands and pasturelands with non-indigenous species like Eucalyptus is another pressing threat to this highly endangered species in South Portugal.


  • Improve the use of EU environmental subsidies to promote restoration and enlargement of the landscape mosaic of different habitat types necessary for the survival of lynx and its prey.

  • Stop the isolation of populations and fragmentation of habitats through infrastructure development projects such as the Odeluca Dam.

  • Approve recovery plans by the regional governments.

  • Restore the rabbit population.

  • Control hunting and illegal poaching.

  • Captive breeding programs.


Status: Lower Risk, CITES Appendix II

Until 1800 the lynx had disappeared from all western and southern European lowlands, surviving only in large mountain ranges. The reason was mainly persecution, and deforestation due to the, expansion of human settlement. The species reached its low in the middle of the 20th century, when all western European populations were extinct, the eastern and south-eastern populations were restricted to the Carpathian mountains and the Balcan Mountains, respectively, and even the Nordic population was dangerously reduced and divided.

Reintroduction programmes were started in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, France, Czech Republic in the 70ties. Following this reintroduction small isolated populations developed in the respective countries..

Source: Large Carnivore Initiative

Throughout Europe and Siberia, lynx are associated primarily with forested areas which have good ungulate (mainly deer species) populations. Small ungulates (roe deer, chamois) are the lynx’s primary prey, although it will also take small prey (fox, hare,…) when ungulates are scarce. Lynx are vulnerable to destruction of their ungulate prey base. Unfortunately persecution still plays a role in lynx population declines.

Habitat destruction, deterioration and alteration have impacted negatively on the lynx for centuries. For example the opening up of roads and forest tracks in previously remote areas is a major problem. The lynx's preferred habitat mosaic has also suffered at the hands of afforestation and scrub clearance schemes, road building, dam construction, and the building of holiday homes.

New infrastructure projects continue to fragment lynx populations and create new barriers in corridor areas between the remaining populations.

Major Threats:

  • Habitat Loss

  • Habitat degradation and extraction

  • Fragmentation of habitats

  • Large scale clear cutting

  • Harvesting/hunting

  • Changes in native species dynamics (food/prey base)


  • Habitat conservation: reduce fragmentation of the habitat to avoid road kills and to enable interpopulational exchange.

  • Reduce conflicts between humans and lynx, enhance public acceptance

  • Secure long term survival through proper management

  • Monitoring and research

BEAR (Ursus arctos)

Status: Not on the IUCN Red List but in certain countries the trade with bear products is strictly limited. In the EC FFH-Directives the brown bear is listed as priority species.

The best bear habitat has already disappeared in Europe through logging and forest clearance The planting of exotic conifers has seriously altered local ecosystems in some places. Habitat fragmentation, particularly as a result of road construction, presents serious problems for a species requiring such large areas.

Today the total number of brown bears in Europe is about 50,000 bears (ca. 14,000 outside Russia) which occur within an area of more than 2.5 million km²(800,000 km² outside Russia). These bears are found in two large (5000), three medium (500-2500), one small (100-500), and six very small (< 100) populations. Population densities vary and seem to depend on food availability, rate of harvest by humans and stage of population expansion/retreat. The highest densities (100-200 bears/1000 km²) are found in Romania and the Dinaric countries, whereas extremely low densities (0.5-1 bear/1000 km²) are found in some areas of Fennoscandia. The populations listed below are ranked by population size.

Distribution Originally

Brown bears originally occurred throughout Europe (except on the largest islands such as Ireland, Iceland, Gotland, Corsica and Sardinia), but later disappeared from most areas as human populations expanded, suitable habitat was destroyed by deforestation and agriculture, and the species was persecuted by hunting.

Major threats

  • Isolation of bear populations through roads, trains. Fragmentation of the habitats.
    Mortality caused by high-speed road and rail networks through bear habitat is a major threat in some areas including Greece and Croatia.

  • Non-acceptance of the local residents and farmers


  • Reduce conflicts between humans and bears, through damage prevention and compensation

  • Enhance public acceptance;

  • Secure long term survival through proper environmental management

  • Monitoring and research

  • Habitat conservation, reduction of habitat fragmentation

Current bear distribution in Europe source: Swenson et al. Action Plan for the Conversation of the Brown Bear in Europe (2000), Council of Europe

Current Numbers
European Russia: 36.000 – population trend positive/increasing
Finland: 800-900 – population trend positive/increasing
Estonia: 440-600 – population trend neutral/stable
Belarus: 120-250 – population trend no data
Latvia: 20-40 – population trend neutral/stable
Romania: 6600 – population trend negative/decreasing
Bulgaria: 700 – population trend negative/decreasing
Ukraine: 400-950 – population trend negative/decreasing
Slovakia: 700 – population trend positive/increasing
Poland: 100 – population trend neutral/stable
Czech Republic: 2-3 – population trend no data
Bosnia-Herzegovina: 1200 – population trend negative/decreasing
SFR – Former Yugoslavia: 430 – population trend negative/decreasing
Croatia: 400 – population trend neutral/stable
Slovenia: 300 – population trend neutral/stable
Greece: 115-135 – population trend negative/decreasing
Macedonia: 90 – population trend neutral/stable
Albania: 250 – population trend neutral/stable
Austria: 25-30 – population trend positive/increasing
Italy: 40-80 - population trend no datas
France: 3-8 – population trend negative/decreasing
Spain: 72-85 – population trend negative/decreasing
Sweden: 1020 – population trend positive/increasing
Norway: 8-21 – population trend neutral/stable

Source: Swenson et al. Action Plan for the Conversation of the Brown Bear in Europe (2000), Council of Europe

For more information, please contact:

Helma Brandlmaier

WWF European Forest Programme
Ottakringer Straße 114-116 A - 1160 Wien
Tel.: + 43 1 48817 217

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