Endangered Animals in Europe

Among Europe's 1,000 species of native mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, 155 are classified as threatened.

Conservation experts warn there's an extremely high chance that 16 of the endangered animals will soon be extinct.

Many of Europe's most endangered animals are species restricted to islands, notably the Canary Islands. Continental Europe is not, however, without severely threatened animals. Bavarian Pine Vole, for example, went extinct in Germany sometime after 1962 and now its last remaining population survives precariously in Austria.

The information here comes from the World Conservation Union (IUCN), an internationally recognized authority on the status of species around the world. IUCN has recently completed detailed assessments of the health of Europe's mammal, reptile and amphibian populations. Meanwhile, Birdlife International provides IUCN with data on the status of European birds.

The animal assessments cover the continent of Europe as far east as the Ural Mountains in Russia, but excluding the Caucasus Mountains in the southeast. They also include the Canary, Madeira and Azores Islands in the eastern Atlantic Ocean.

Endangered Mammals

Extinction threatens 15 percent, or one in seven of Europe's 228 species of mammals. Among the 35 threatened European mammals, six are marine species.

Europe's five most endangered mammals, listed below, are classified as "Critically Endangered". That status means populations have declined drastically, or numbers are already precariously low, or the animals presently survive only in a tiny area. Conservation specialists conclude that the likelihood of these animals soon becoming extinct in their natural habitat is "extremely high".

Saiga Saiga tatarica

Russian Federation, Central Asia — In Europe, saiga antelope have disappeared from Moldova, Poland and Ukraine. At most 18,000 of the antelope remain in European Russia. Illegal hunting and habitat destruction caused saiga populations to decline by over 80 percent in the last decade.

Iberian Lynx Lynx pardinus

Spain, Portugal — Lynx are nearly extinct in Portugal where few, if any, remain. Spain's only two breeding populations total 84 to 143 adults. Lynx's main food source, rabbits, became scarce after the 1940s. That, along with much of their habitat being developed, led to drastic population declines.

Bavarian Pine Vole Microtus bavaricus

Austria — Only one population of Bavaian pine voles is known to exist, after they became extinct in Germany sometime since 1962. The last group's open forest habitat on Rofan Mountain suffers recent and ongoing losses to forestry and farming.

Mediterranean Monk Seal Monachus monachus

Mediterranean Sea — With a population of at most 450 animals, this is the most endangered seal in the world. Most of the remaining monk seals live in Greece and Turkey. Their numbers continue to decline from people disturbing caves the seals use for breeding, and from fishing gear trapping the endangered marine animals.

North Atlantic Right Whale Eubalaena glaciali

Atlantic Ocean — Few, if any, right whales now swim in the eastern North Atlantic, after centuries of whaling decimated the species. The last right whales were caught off Madeira Island, Portugal in 1967, and right whales have seldom been seen since near European shores. About 350 right whales still live in the western Atlantic, along the east coast of North America

European Mink Mustela lutreola

Belarus, Estonia, France, Romania, Russian Federation, Spain, Ukraine and reintroduced to Estonia — European mink are extinct in Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, and possibly Bulgaria, Moldova and Switzerland. The European mink population is less than half what it was a decade ago. Wetland habitat loss and degradation has relegated mink to barely one-fifth of their original range.

Azorean Bat Nyctalus azoreum

Azores Islands — At most, 5,000 Azorean bats remain and their numbers are likely dwindling. Many colonies have reportedly disappeared in recent years as people persecute the bats and destroy roosts.

Madeira Pipistrelle Pipistrellus maderensis

Canary, Maderia and Azores Islands — Possibly 1000 Madeira pipistrelle bats live in the Madieria Islands, 300 in the Azores and somewhat more in the Canaries. The bat's population is probably declining and habitat loss is a concern.

Canary Long-eared Bat Plecotus teneriffae

Canary Islands — Canary long-eared bats are confined to three or four islands in the Canary archipelago. The bats have recently dropped in number due to cutting of forests.

Roach’s Mouse-tailed Dormouse Myomimus roachi

Bulgaria, Turkey — Most of the semi-open landscape, once scattered with trees and shrubs, is now intensively farmed and no longer suitable for Roach’s mouse-tailed dormouse. It hasn’t been sighted in European Turkey for five years.

Sandy Mole Rat Spalax arenarius

Ukraine — The sandy mole rat lives only in southern Ukraine, where its habitat continues to shrink. Outside its protected range in the Black Sea State Reserve, the mole rat population is swiftly declining.

Canary Shrew Crocidura canariensis

Canary Islands — It's not known how many Canary shrews exist or whether their numbers have changed over the years. Rapid development on the islands is fragmenting and destroying the shrews' habitat.

In addition to the dozen endangered mammals in the above list, threatened mammals include European bison, wolverine, polar bear and marbled polecat, along with seven species of bats, two hares, four rodents and two shrews. Some, such as marbled polecat and Russian desman, have undergone populations declines of at least 30 percent in the last ten years.

Endangered Birds

Out of the 524 bird species found in Europe, 68 (13 percent) are threatened. Some of the endangered birds whose range includes Europe are Balearic shearwater, sociable lapwing, red-breasted goose, saker falcon, Egyptian vulture, and white-headed duck. Europe's most endangered bird of all is the slender-billed curlew.

Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris

Central, Eastern, Southern Europe — Once common, this curlew migrates across Europe from breeding grounds in Siberia. Its numbers declined dramatically during the last 100 years, and probably now total fewer than 50 individuals. The last confirmed sighting of a slender-billed curlew was in 2001 in Hungary.

Endangered Reptiles

Most of Europe's endangered reptiles are endemic, meaning they don't live outside the region. Within Europe, the Iberian peninsula harbors a concentration of endangered reptile species.

Lizards dominate the list of threatened reptiles. All of the six most endangered European reptiles are wall lizards. Four belonging to the Gallotia genus live only on the Canary Islands. The other two are:

Batuecan Rock Lizard Iberolacerta martinezricai

Spain — This rock lizard lives in the Sierra de Francia mountains of Salamanca in southern Spain, where most of the species occupies the top of a single 1700 metre peak. Fewer than 100 mature rock lizards are estimated to exist. Tourists, road builders and all-terrain vehicle riders are threats to this highly endangered species.

Aeolian Wall Lizard Podarcis raffone

Italy — Less than 1,000 Aeolian wall lizards are confined to isolated spots on the Aeolian Islands lying north of Sicily. Their survival is threatened by competition from an introduced lizard.

Endangered Amphibians

Out of Europe's 83 species of amphibians, nearly one-quarter are threatened with extinction. All of the 19 threatened species occur only in Europe. Most of the continent's endangered amphibians live on the Iberian peninsula, the Italian peninsula, the Balkan coast and several Mediterranean islands.

In general, Europe's frogs, toads and salamanders are not doing well. Populations of only one threatened toad and one common frog are currently on the rise, while the numbers of 49 other amphibian species drop.

For two amphibians, the Karpathos Frog and Montseny Brook Newt, numbers have declined so low, that the species are now critically endangered and close to extinction.

Karpathos Frog Pelophylax cerigensis

Greece — This endangered water frog lives solely on Karpathos Island, where it's been recently found in just one mountain river. During the 1960s these frogs were abundant on the island, but by 1992 were seldom seen. Loss of its stream habitat is blamed for the species decline.

Montseny Brook Newt Calotriton arnoldi

Spain — El Montseny Natural Park in northeast Spain contains all the 1,000 to 1,500 mature individuals of this endangered salamander. The amphibian continually requires cold, fast-running mountain streams. But to the newt's detriment, Park streams are drying up as large volumes of the mountain water are bottled and sold throughout Europe.


Neil Cox and Helen Temple (compilers). 2009. European Red List of Reptile. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) and European Union.

Europa. European Commission. 2007. European Mammal Assessment. The World Conservation Union (IUCN).

IUCN. 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.2.

Helen Temple and Neil Cox (compilers). 2009. European Red List of Amphibians. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) and European Union.

Helen Temple and Andrew Terry (compilers). 2007. The Status and Distribution of European Mammals. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Regional Assessment. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) and European Union.

Back to Top
Science Articles