Belarus, a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna.
From the dense forests to the vast wetlands, the country has a rich biodiversity – no wonder it is often called “the lungs of Europe.”
However, many of the country’s species are extinct or face a high risk of extinction due to various factors, such as habitat loss or degradation and climate change.
Moreover, human-induced activities, such as illegal hunting and poaching, threaten Belarusian species.
Understanding the critical state of these precious species and the urgency with which we need to act to prevent them from disappearing forever is crucial.
Therefore, we will take you through a comprehensive list of endangered species in Belarus and the measures taken to protect them.
4. Large Blue
The large blue butterfly (Phengaris arion) is one of the largest species of gossamer-winged butterflies, with a wingspan of up to 2 inches.
It is characterized by its unique speckled black dots on its wings and a blue underside.
The IUCN Red List assessed the species as endangered in Europe and near threatened globally.
The European assessment is based on the fact that large blue butterflies have faced a steady decline of 90%-97% since 1990.
Threats to their existence include climate change, pollution, and habitat loss due to agricultural intensification, deforestation, and abandonment.
Inappropriate management of its grassland habitats also threatens the large blue’s survival.
Conservation actions initiated include legal protection of the species and its habitat, habitat management and restoration, and reintroduction of the species in certain countries.
The species is also listed under Habitats Directive Annex 4 and Bern Convention Annex 2.
This means it’s subject to a strict project regime across its natural range within Europe.
3. Sterlet Sturgeon
The sterlet (Acipenser ruthenus), otherwise called sterlet sturgeon, is a small-sized species of sturgeon native to mainland eastern Europe and western Asia.
This species is recognizable by the whitish lateral scutes, fringed barbels, and long, narrow snout.
Unfortunately, the sterlet has experienced a dramatic population decline over the last few years.
The recent IUCN Red List assessment listed the species as endangered, and its population is still decreasing.
Scientists speculate that its wild native population has suffered a 60-70% reduction over the last 60 years (three generations). Naturally, some populations are more affected than others.
The species’ decline is mainly attributed to overfishing and bycatch for their meat.
Other contributing factors are habitat loss caused by natural ecosystem modifications, pollution, and outbreeding between species without proper regulation.
Many states have enforced laws prohibiting or limiting their catch, while others have implemented restocking programs.
The species is listed under CITES Appendix II, the Pan European Action Plan for Sturgeons, and the EU Flora-Fauna- Habitats Directive.
2. Slender-billed curlew
The slender-billed curlew (Numenius tenuirostris) is one of the rarest bird species across the Palearctic region.
It derives its name from its slender beak, which it uses to sift through soft mud in search of tiny invertebrates.
This wading bird is small-sized, measuring between 14 and 16 inches long.
The species’ first assessment on the IUCN Red List was in 1988, when it was listed as “threatened.”
Since then, its population has drastically decreased, with an estimate of less than 50 mature individuals remaining.
As such, the species is now listed as “critically endangered.”
Major threats to this species are habitat loss, hunting on its Mediterranean wintering grounds, and the absence of winter migratory birds at their former Moroccan sites.
Subsequently, conservation efforts for the species have focused on survey work in its presumed breeding areas, wintering sites, and molting areas.
Other initiatives include raising public awareness and educating hunters to prevent further species losses.
The species is also listed in CITES Appendix I, which requires all international trade to be regulated.
1. Sociable Lapwing
The sociable lapwing (Vanellus gregarious) is one of the rarest and most threatened birds among all bird species found on the Eurasian steppes.
The species’ name is derived from its behavior of gathering in large flocks during migration.
They live in semi-colonial groups consisting of three to twenty pairs.
Social lapwing was listed as “critically endangered” on the IUCN Red List in 2004 but experienced a main decline between 1960 and 1987.
Its general population decreased by 50%, leaving it at roughly one-fifth of what it was in the 1930s.
The species’ conservation status is critically endangered, indicating that the population could decline by 80% or more in the coming years.
The main reasons behind social lapwing’s decline remain poorly unknown.
However, converting steppe into arable cultivation and hunting pressure along the species’ migratory route and wintering grounds have been attributed as notable threats.
The conservation action plan published in 2004 mainly focuses on intensive research of social lapwing breeding sites.
The species is also legally protected in many countries, but enforcing this law is still a concern.