The Russian desman (Desmana moschata)
There are about 35 000 specimens of the Russian desman on our planet, and almost all of them live in Russia. This animal inhabits floodplain lakes and slow-moving streams. The Russian desman was the object of intense fur trade until 1920. Its fur and musk were especially valuable. The main reasons of this species population decline are water pollution, drainage of floodplains, and deforestation. Many animals die in fishing nets. The Russian desman is listed as endangered species in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation.
The houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata)
The houbara bustard also known as African houbara lives in the sandy borderland area of clayey semi-deserts and deserts. The males have a beautiful fluffy collar of long, wide, black and wide feathers. This species is known for a peculiar manner of running in a zigzag pattern. The population of the houbara bustard has significantly decreased because of intense human activities in its nesting area. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 2014.
The great bustard (Otis tarda)
The great bustard is the inhabitant of the steppe zone of Eurasia. At first, human activity like deforestation increased the population of the great bustard. However later, intense hunting and plowing of the steppes put the species on the brink of extinction. These birds are known to build nests in fields, although they often leave their nests because of restless environment and when sensing danger; many eggs and chicks die under the wheels of agricultural machinery.
The pygmy cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmaeus)
The habitat of Pygmy cormorants includes lakes, floodplains and river deltas with dense thickets of reeds and willows. Pygmy cormorants are excellent divers. They often have to wait until their plumage is dry again because it usually gets wet after hunting in the water area. These birds dry their plumage by taking an interesting pose: stretching out their long necks and spreading their wings. The main causes of the population decrease are water pollution and the lack of fish.
The yellow steppe lemming (Eolagurus luteus)
This small animal got its name due to the sandy-yellow color of its fur. From an environmental point of view there are very few studies of the Yellow steppe lemmings. Today this species is known to be occasionally seen in southern Altai, near the borders of Kazakhstan and China. The causes of extinction are unknown.
The dhole (Cuon alpinus)
The main habitat of Dholes is mountains. These animals don’t dig any burrows, their dens can be found in caves and rock crevices. The species can be confused with a fox because of its fluffy fur and a long tail. The main causes of Dholes’ low population are unknown. Scientists suggest that Dholes shared the same habitat with gray wolves and were eventually replaced by them. In 2005 a commemorative coin of 1 rouble nominal value with an image of a Dhole was issued by the Central Bank of Russia.
The marbled polecat (Vormela peregusna)The Marbled polecat is a nocturnal predator. This animal inhabits the steppes and hills covered with bushes. The Latin name “vormela” has German origin and means "little worm". Plowing of steppes and mass extermination of rodents (the main food of the species) brought this species to the brink of extinction.
The giant mole-rat or Russian mole-rat (Spalax giganteus)
The animal used to live on the vast territory, but under the influence of environmental changes this species became extinct in many places. Now the individual groups of Giant mole-rats have survived only in Russia and Kazakhstan. The animal’s fur has a unique feature: it can be equally combed in all directions which allows Giant mole-rats to move in any direction at the same speed.
The Altai snowcock (Tetraogallus altaicus)Altai snowcocks prefer living in high mountainous areas. Despite looking laid back, Altai snowcocks can be extraordinarily nimble and quick. These birds can easily climb the hills using wings and strong calloused feet. The harsh environment of high mountains in summer (snowfalls and low temperatures at night) cause the population to decrease. The hunting of Altai snowcocks is prohibited.
The golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
The females of Golden eagles are significantly larger than males, and can weigh almost 7 kg. These birds are known for their extremely keen eyesight which allows them to find their prey in hardly accessible places. For example, this species is able to see a hare at a distance of several km. Golden eagles have to move their head to look around because their eyes are too big to move in the eye sockets. The population decline is primarily caused by human activity (illegal hunting, poison baits, loud noise near the eagles’ nests, and destruction of nesting habitats).
The Pallas's cat (Otocolobus manul), also called the manul
The fur of this species is the most fluffy and thick among cats (9000 hairs per 1 square cm). The tips of the hair are white which gives the impression that an animal is covered with snow. The animals are considered to be one of the slowest and clumsiest among wild cats – when in danger it prefers to hide or climb on top of a rock. A Pallas's cat is a rare animal, and poaching among other dangers rapidly decreases the population.
The gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus)
Gyrfalcons are the most northerly birds of prey and the largest species among falcons. Gyrfalcons mostly feed on ptarmigans. Gyrfalcons are very strong, they are able to rapidly fly up and kill their prey even in flight. The main reasons of decreasing population are poaching and the arctic foxes traps. Illegal trapping and trade of gyrfalcons are stimulated by their high value as hunting birds.
The peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), also known as the duck hawk
Peregrine falcons are the fastest birds in the world. The bird is able to exceed 300 km/h in a dive flight. During the Second World War, the peregrines were used to intercept the pigeon post. Today they prevent collisions of airplanes with other birds by dispersing them at the airports. Also peregrine falcons can be used in guarding architectural monuments by scaring away pigeons and crows. Peregrine falcons like other large falcons (saker falcons and gyrfalcons) are one of the most vulnerable birds. They are included in the Red Lists of Threatened Species of almost all countries where peregrine falcons used to be very common.
The red-breasted goose (Branta ruficollis)
It is impossible to confuse the red-breasted goose with any other bird. It has a very exquisite appearance and became the symbol of international ornithological congress in Moscow in 1982. The images of red-breasted geese were found on ancient Egyptian frescoes. Red-breasted geese have been highly valued for a long time and often were kept in captivity. In the 18th century “the red geese” were brought from Siberia according to imperial decrees. This species has a very limited habitat and breeds only in Russia. In 1992 a commemorative coin of 10 roubles nominal value with an image of a red-breasted goose was issued by the Central Bank of Russia.
The Blakiston's fish owl (Bubo blakistoni)
Along with the Siberian tiger this large bird can be called the symbol of the Ussuri taiga. Blakiston's fish owl prefers to live in hollows of old trees with plenty of aquatic prey nearby. However old forests and hollow trees are often cut down which inevitably reduces the area of the original habitat. These birds can hunt in two different ways: they either lookout for prey, quickly dive into the water snatching it up, or walk probing the bottom with feet having lifted wings and the tail.
The marbled duck, or marbled teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris)
The bird got its name due to unusual plumage that looks like marble: sandy-brown color with light spots. In Russia the species habitat is not varied, it includes the Pricaspian region and the Volga Delta. This is mainly due to human activity (agricultural land development, diversion of water for irrigation and drainage of wetlands). Although marbled duck hunting is prohibited in Russia, these birds are still endangered because hunters can’t always identify the marbled duck in flight.
The lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus)
Poaching is the main reason for listing this species as endangered in the Russian Red Data Book. It has a significant difference from the greater white-fronted goose: the lesser white-fronted geese are smaller and have a large white spot on their foreheads reaching their crown. These birds often become hunters’ prey. This species is known for a subtle squeak during the flight. The birds nest in the Northern mountainous taiga region, and spend winter in the southern regions. The lesser white-fronted geese spend almost half of their lives in the air, they can cover almost 8 thousand km per year.
The swan goose (Anser cygnoides)
The swan goose also has another name – the Chinese goose because it was domesticated in China over 3 thousand years ago. The species is the same size as a domestic goose, but its neck is thinner and longer, so it looks more like a swan on the pond or in flight. The main reasons of the population decline are the credulity and curiosity of these birds, as well as their habitat being easy to notice and access during the breeding season.
The white-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala)
The characteristic features of these large ducks are a white head with black crown and a blue beak. White- headed ducks spend most of their life in the water; they almost never come ashore, because these ducks don’t walk well. They swim and dive wonderfully. White-headed ducks are reluctant to fly, in case of danger they prefer to escape by diving or hiding in the reeds. One of the reasons for the population decline is the destruction of natural habitats caused by human activity.
The mandarin duck (Aix galericulata)
This representative of an order of Anseriformes has a strikingly beautiful and harmonious plumage. The main habitats of these miniature ducks are mountain rivers with lush vegetation in the coastal zone. Couples prefer building nests in hollows of trees high off the ground. After hatching chicks leave their nests. Thanks to the light weight, they glide down like parachutists. Mandarin ducks live in the Far East. Raccoon dogs often destroy their nests. Hunting also causes the decrease of population.
The European honey buzzard (Pernis apivorus)
This predatory bird has a very unusual name. It reflects the peculiarity of this bird’s lifestyle which includes feeding on larvae of social hymenopterans, primarily wasps. A predator rakes a wasp nest, opens its cover and pulls out cells with delicious larvae. European honey buzzards are rare in all habitats. Many birds become hunters’ prey during migration period over the southern Europe.