Endangered Species in Ukraine Facing Extinction Amid Russian Invasion
War can potentially wipe out wildlife species from the face of the earth; just like the Wake Island rail (a small flightless bird, native to an atoll in the Pacific) which went extinct during World War II
While war is often an outcome of human misunderstanding and selfish motives, it is the wildlife that suffers the most. Amid the raging Russia-Ukraine war, conservationists are worried about the future of several endangered wildlife species living in Ukraine. War can have a catastrophic impact on wildlife populations, both directly and indirectly. Animals are incidentally killed by guns, landmines, or chemicals used in conflicts, while forests are burned down to ashes.
Wars and conflicts are often left out of the talks on wildlife conservation, even though it poses an urgent threat to a number of endangered species. Wild animals may be exploited by soldiers for bushmeat or they can be stripped to bits and sold to raise finances for arms and ammunition. Trees are cut down to make way for convoys or rescue operations, while bombing leaves the forest land charred for years.
According to research, over 75 percent of terrestrial mammal and bird species have been impacted due to armed conflicts globally within their ranges during 1989-2018. Wars and armed conflicts are a pervasive global threat, but their implications for wildlife conservation still remain largely undetermined.
The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war could have severe implications on the unique and endangered wildlife species in the Ukrainian landscape. We have listed some of the flora and fauna species that could be further threatened by the invasion.
Russian desman is an endangered semiaquatic mammal that is the only member of its genus and is closely related to moles. The animal makes burrows around the water banks to avail plenty of insects, crayfish and amphibians to fulfill food requirements.
The species inhabits the Volga, Don and Ural River basins in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan and have been facing declines due to poaching and rapid habitat loss. It went extinct in Belarus. It was reintroduced in Ukraine in the 1950s after it vanished in the 19th century.
Endemic to Ukraine, sandy mole-rat is an endangered animal from a rodent member of the family Spalacidae. The species has only one stronghold, the Black Sea Biosphere Reserve, which caught fire during the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The population of the species has been estimated at about 15,000 to 20,000 mature individuals. However, the invasion has put the animal in grave danger from bombing, fires and habitat destruction.
This rare plant species is native to southern Crimea, where it thrives in rocky areas between 700 and 1400 meters altitude. It only exists in 3-5 locations. The tree is endangered due to habitat loss and invasive species.
Apparently, there is an invasive wasp species known as the mountain ash seed chalcide that damages 99 percent of the tree seeds before they can flower and become the next generation. This reduces the chance of new tree growths and the population is rapidly declining. The war doesn’t exactly help the case for the species, endangering it even further.
Although a wide-ranging species, Saker Falcon is an endangered bird. It breeds from central Europe eastwards across the Palearctic to Manchuria. These falcons do not breed in Ukraine, but they spend a lot of time there each year.
According to the Ukrainian Birds of Prey Research Center, the population of Saker falcon in the country is extremely vulnerable. The current war will not provide any suitable habitat for the species.
Betula klokovii is a species of a birch tree that is endemic to Ukraine and is found in only two mountainous regions. The trees grow on sandy hills in steppe grasses and dry chalkstone or in open woodlands.
The critically endangered flora species has declined to about 50 mature individuals. The population has a steep decline due to mining and chalk quarrying. The habitat loss is not going to be eradicated amid a war, in fact, it can potentially pose an apparent threat of extinction.
Zubowski’s Plump Bush-Cricket
An endangered insect, Zubowski’s plump bush-cricket is primarily found in Romania, with small and scattered populations across Moldova and Ukraine. These tiny beings are always at risk of being crushed under some other animals and with a raging war, there is a looming danger over the species.
An endangered carp is thought to be extinct in Hungary and Romania, however, it still exists in Croatia, Slovenia and Ukraine. It is a ray-finned fish in the genus Alburnus. In Ukraine, it is found in Danube River, but with the raging war polluting land and water resources, it is highly likely that the fish population will be profoundly affected.
Chornaya gudgeon is a critically endangered carp that is limited to a 1 kilometer stretch of the stream below Ukraine’s Chornaya Gorge. The tiny habitat of this fish is under serious threat of drying up in the summer. Aside from the dangers of climate change, the fish is now threatened by the war as well.
Sorbus Roopiana is an endangered tree species that grows in only four countries, including Ukraine. As per the IUCN Red List, there are about 100 individuals in existence. The tree is incredibly rare and its range is based on the information of its state in Crimea, where less than ten trees are in existence.
One of the endangered wildlife species in Ukraine, Andrena Labiatula is a critically endangered Ukrainian bee. It has not been seen since 1963 and is only known from three samples found on the Crimean peninsula. Global warming, urban expansion and development threaten the species. Despite its rarity, the species is not listed in the Red List of Ukraine. War further endangers the species.
J.R.R. Tolkien summed up the futility of the war aptly – “The world is full enough of hurts and mischances without wars to multiply them.”