Although many animals have gone extinct over the years, an estimated 8.7 million species still exist in different parts of the world.
Apart from belonging to separate families and genera, these animals differ based on their preferred locations. In other words, location and preferred habitat help to differentiate animal species.
As such, certain animals only live in certain countries.
Albania has a primarily mountainous terrain, with more than half its territory consisting of hills and mountains and elevations over 600 feet above sea level.
Apart from its mountainous terrain, the country also has a diverse climate and topography across its different regions that serve as home to many species.
Yet, just like in any other nation, some of these animals found throughout Albania’s regions are in danger of extinction.
This article will elaborate on a few of the endangered species in Albania. Keep reading to discover more.
8. Balkan Lynx
The Balkan lynx (Lynx lynx balcanicus) is a rare cat species that is a subspecies of the Eurasian lynx.
This species inhabits certain parts of Europe, including Kosovo, Albania, and Macedonia.
Unfortunately, the Balkan lynx is one of Europe’s most endangered wildcat species.
The species is estimated at fewer than 50 Balkan lynx individuals left in the wild today, making this an urgent conservation issue.
The Balkan lynx is a medium-sized cat, with males weighing up to 70 pounds and females up to 55 pounds.
One of the most striking features of the Balkan lynx is its spotted coat.
Each cat has a unique pattern of spots and stripes that helps it to blend in with its rocky surroundings.
This camouflage is essential, as the Balkan lynx rely on stealth and surprise to catch its prey.
Another notable feature of the Balkan lynx is its ear tufts.
These tufts of fur on the tips of the cat’s ears help it communicate with other lynx in the area and provide protection from the cold.
Despite its impressive adaptations, the Balkan lynx face several serious threats.
Habitat loss due to human activities such as logging, mining, and urbanization has reduced the cat’s range and fragmented its population.
Around 15 to 20 lynxes still live in Albania, where the law has protected them since 1969 as a Critically Endangered species.
Conservation efforts to protect the Balkan lynx are underway but face challenges like lack of funding and political will for conservation in the region.
7. Dalmatian Pelican
Also called the Great White Pelican, the Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus) is a majestic bird that inhabits the wetlands and lakes of southeastern Europe, Asia Minor, and parts of Africa.
The species’ population drastically decreased over the 20th century, primarily because of land usage, disturbance, and poaching.
Although the number of these birds is not at an all-time low, countries such as Albania have them listed as endangered.
The Dalmatian pelican has a distinct appearance, with white plumage and a distinctive bright yellow-orange pouch under its bill.
As the hugest member of the pelican family, males weigh more than females.
These birds average 25 pounds, making them one of the heaviest flying birds.
However, there are reports of individuals that weigh as much as 33 pounds and have a wingspan over 11 feet.
This bird is primarily social and lives in large flocks. They are also known to migrate in groups.
During breeding, they form monogamous pairs and build nests on the ground or in low trees near the water.
The Dalmatian pelican faces several threats in the wild, including habitat loss and degradation, pollution, and hunting; people also hunt these birds for their feathers and meat.
Despite these threats, the number of Dalmatian pelicans left in the wild is unknown.
6. The European Eel
Known by its scientific name, Anguilla anguilla, or more common name, the European eel, this eel is a species popular for its unique lifecycle.
Although the average lifecycle of this species remains unknown, some observed individuals live past 80 years.
However, despite their lengthy lifecycle, many regions, including Albania, classify these eels as critically endangered.
The average length of these eels is between two and three feet, but some individuals reach over four feet.
The European eel is a freshwater fish found in rivers, lakes, and coastal waters in Europe, including the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
Their lifecycle begins in the Sargasso Sea, a region of the western Atlantic Ocean, where adult eels migrate to breed and spawn.
Then, they swim upriver and mature into adult eels before eventually returning to the Sargasso Sea to spawn and complete the life cycle.
Unfortunately, the European eel has experienced significant population declines in recent decades, with experts estimating that the population has decreased by up to 90% since the 1980s.
The reasons for this decline are complex and multifaceted, including human activities such as overfishing, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change.
These eels also face the problems of habitat loss, degradation, pollution, etc.
5. Mediterranean Monk Seal
The Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) is one of the rarest pinnipeds in the world.
These rare marine mammals inhabit some of the waters surrounding Albania.
Because of how endangered this species is, only a few hundred individuals remain in the wild.
Despite this, Albania is home to most of the Mediterranean monk seal population.
The average weight of these animals is between 530 and 880 pounds, with males reaching over 700 pounds and females averaging 660 pounds.
The Mediterranean monk seal, which is said to have the shortest hair of any pinniped, has fur that is either black in males or brown to dark grey in females.
Because they molt, the intensity of the color of an adult Mediterranean monk seal varies.
Mediterranean monk seals in Albania inhabit the waters off the southern coast of Albania near the Greek border.
However, human activity is one of the main threats to this species.
The expansion of tourism and fishing industries in the area has caused increased pollution and overfishing, affecting the seal’s habitat and food sources.
The destruction of natural regions for the development of infrastructure and beach resorts has also had a detrimental effect on the seal’s breeding grounds.
4. Mediterranean Sturgeon
The Mediterranean Sturgeon, also known as the Adriatic Sturgeon or the Acipenser naccarii, is a species of fish native to the Mediterranean Sea.
This sturgeon species were once plentiful in rivers and Albania’s coastal waters.
However, due to overfishing, pollution, and habitat loss, the population has severely declined in recent decades.
This fish is typically large, reaching over six feet and weighing as much as 55 pounds.
Recently, all the observed individuals weighed as much as 90 pounds.
It has a dark brown or grayish-green body with five rows of bony plates, or scutes, running along its back.
Unlike other sturgeons, this species has a long snout that ends in a small mouth, and it uses its whisker-like barbels to locate prey in the sediment at the bottom of the river or sea.
Historically, the Mediterranean Sturgeon was an important food source in Albania, known for its caviar.
However, overfishing has depleted the population to the point where it is now critically endangered. Another threat to the Mediterranean Sturgeon in Albania is pollution.
The rivers and coastal waters that the sturgeon inhabit have industrial and agricultural waste and sewage contamination.
This pollution can harm the sturgeon, habitats, and prey, such as small fish and crustaceans.
3. Northern Bald Ibis
The Northern Bald Ibis, also known as the Waldrapp, is a unique-looking bird with black feathers, a bald red face, and a curved beak.
They are known for their distinctive flight pattern, which includes a series of glides and flaps that make them appear to dance in the sky.
This species was once common throughout Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
Today, the only wild population of the Northern Bald Ibis in Europe can is in Albania, where conservation efforts have been ongoing since the early 2000s.
This bird’s plumage is black with streaks of bronze-green.
The sexes are similar in plumage, although males are generally larger than females.
Their heads and faces are a dull red, regardless of the sex, and they have a wispy ruff on the back of their necks.
Generally, these birds weigh between 35–46 oz and measure between 28 and 53 inches.
The Northern bald ibis’ last known wild breeding population in Europe was in the early 17th century.
The species was presumed extinct in the wild until a small population appeared in Morocco in the 1990s.
These birds did not appear in Albania until around 2002, and conservation efforts have been underway since.
One of the challenges facing conservationists in Albania is habitat loss.
The birds rely on rocky cliffs and ledges for breeding, but many of these habitats are no more because of human activities such as quarrying and urbanization.
2. Short-toed Snake Eagle
Also called the short-toed eagle, the short-toed snake eagle (Circaetus gallicus) is a bird of prey that inhabits several regions, including Albania.
This species is one of Albania’s most essential raptors due to its ecological significance and conservation status.
These birds inhabit the lowlands and mountains of the country, preferring to switch between both to breed.
With an average of 3.7 pounds, these birds have an estimated wingspan between 5.4-6.5 feet.
Most of their underside is white, and their upper parts are greyish-brown, making them easy to spot in the wild.
The top breast, throat, and chin are a light, earthy brown.
The species received formal recognition in the late 18th century and was in the same genus as falcons and eagles until it received a separate genus in 1816.
The population of short-toed snake eagles in Albania is estimated to be around 100-150 breeding pairs.
The species faces various threats in Albania, such as habitat loss, illegal killing, and electrocution.
Also, their open habitat requirements make them vulnerable to habitat fragmentation and destruction caused by human activities, such as agriculture and urbanization.
Moreover, the illegal killing of raptors is a widespread issue in Albania, often driven by the belief that these birds prey on livestock or game species.
1. Western Capercaillie
Other names for the western capercaillie include heather cock, wood grouse, and Eurasian capercaillie.
The Western Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) is a large bird native to the forests of Europe and Asia.
This species inhabits the northwestern region of Albania, preferring to live in the high-altitude forests of the Albanian Alps.
The size and coloring of male and female western capercaillies make identification simple.
The cock is often heavier than the hen since it is one of the living birds with the most sexual dimorphism.
Cocks usually weigh between 9-14 pounds, while hens are between 3-5 pounds.
Cocks’ breast feathers are dark metallic green, while their body feathers range from dark grey to dark brown.
Conversely, hens’ feathers are light and yellow on the underside and brown with black and silver barring on the top.
The western capercaillie is a highly prized bird for hunters, but it is also an important indicator species for the health of forest ecosystems.
In Albania, the population of Western Capercaillie has declined significantly in recent years due to habitat loss and hunting pressure.
However, hunting western capercaillie is illegal in Albania, but poaching remains a significant problem.
Efforts are ongoing to protect this species in Albania.
The Albanian government has designated the Albanian Alps as a national park, which provides some level of protection for the bird’s habitat.