Iraq features various biomes – mountainous regions, wet marshlands, deserts, and semi-arid regions.
These serve as a home for numerous wildlife species.
However, continuous habitat change and destruction caused many of these native animals to either go extinct or become highly threatened.
If you want to learn more about some endangered animals living in Iraq, keep reading, as you’ll discover essential details about what threatens them!
4. Euphrates softshell turtle
You might’ve heard of the Euphrates softshell turtle as the Mesopotamian softshell turtle, as both names are common within their range.
It’s a large freshwater turtle, weighing up to 44 pounds and reaching 2.2 feet long.
The species was listed as endangered in 2016.
Scientists believe their population registered a reduction of around 50% over the last 15 years.
While it is known that the population is still in decline, little is confirmed beyond this, especially regarding the individuals living in Iraq.
The Euphrates softshell turtle is found only in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, where it inhabits rivers, streams, ponds, and other freshwater environments.
The habitats’ destruction, alteration, and fragmentation directly impact the species’ population numbers.
For example, dams are responsible for changing the water quality and altering the flow regime, thus posing threats to the Euphrates softshell turtle’s survival.
Pesticides used in agricultural fields near freshwater habitats result in a population decline.
In addition to what we’ve already mentioned, major threats to the Rafetus euphraticus population in Iraq are drought, unsustainable fishing methods, and the use of explosive materials.
3. Goitered Gazelle
The common name of Gazella subgutturosa, goitered gazelle, translates as “full below the throat.”
It indicates the distinctive enlargement of the throat and neck in male gazelles, which is noticeable during the mating season.
These antelopes are renowned for reaching high speeds, thus covering as much as 18.6 miles a day during winter!
Unfortunately, the IUCN Red List assessed the species as critically endangered based on the Mediterranean assessment and vulnerable on a global scale.
Only around 10,000 mature individuals are estimated to be left, and the numbers continue to drop.
Scientists believe there are no longer any sub-populations consisting of more than 50 gazelles.
The largest populations are in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which host around 2,600 and 1,000 gazelles.
Iraq might also be at the top, as some researchers confirm populations of around 1,000 individuals.
However, this dates back to 2001, and more recent evidence is required.Illegal hunting and habitat loss are threats to goitered gazelles.
The hunting is usually done for the meat, but sometimes for trophies as well.
As for habitat destruction, this is caused primarily by conversion to agriculture and economic development.
2. Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphin
What makes Indian Ocean humpback dolphins unique is the depth they live in; these dolphins are rarely found in depths greater than 65.6 feet.
On the other hand, this is exactly what caused the species to be listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List – it highly depends on the coastal physiography.
Research shows these dolphins are among the few marine species with highly specific habitat requirements and preferences.
That’s why environmental changes and anthropogenic threats can highly damage their populations.
Even more, scientists believe that only 4-8 deaths per year in a subpopulation of up to 100 individuals are enough to lead to a 50% subpopulation reduction over 75 years (three generations).
These dolphins inhabit the world’s most polluted, fished, and heavily utilized waters.
Besides this, bycatch is a major threat to the Indian Ocean humpback dolphin population.
Direct killing, oil spills, and boat traffic are believed to cause a slight population decline, but these aren’t as dangerous as the others mentioned.
Despite all the data, more conservation efforts are needed to avoid species extinction.
1. Whale Shark
The whale shark is a carpet shark renowned for being the world’s largest extant fish, reaching lengths of up to 40 feet.
Besides this, the whale shark has a remarkable lifespan of 80-130 years!
Despite their size, whale sharks are docile and rarely attack humans.
On the contrary, they’ve been observed allowing people to catch a ride!
Unluckily, the world’s largest fish is also on the brink of extinction, as the IUCN Red List assessed the species as endangered.
It is believed that the Indo-Pacific population registered a reduction of 63% over the last 75 years, while the Atlantic population registered a 30% decline.
Based on these details, it’s estimated that the overall species population has declined by more than 50% over the last three generations.
The whale shark lives in coastal and oceanic habitats and is primarily a pelagic fish.
Major threats include vessel strikes and bycatch in nets.
Vessel strike frequency is greatly increased by shipping lanes placed close to where whale sharks feed.
As such, many individuals suffer injuries while feeding.