Mammals

Aim 

For the first time, the conservation status of Mediterranean terrestrial mammals was evaluated following IUCN regional Red Listing guidelines. Species that are threatened with extinction at the regional level were identified– in order that appropriate conservation action can be taken to improve their status.

The Long-eared Hedgehog (Hemiechinus auritus).  Photo © Ahmet Karatas

 

Geographical scope

All terrestrial mammal species native to the Mediterranean or naturalized since before 1500 A.D. were included in this evaluation. One marine and coastal species, the Mediterranean Monk Seal Monachus monachus is also included. Mediterranean cetaceans (dolphins and whales) are covered in a separate publication. For the purposes of this mammal assessment, the Mediterranean region was defined politically to include the following countries: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, FYR Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Portugal (including Madeira), San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain (including the Canary Islands), Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Turkey and Western Sahara.

Status assessment

The status of all species was assessed using the IUCN Red List Criteria (IUCN 2001), which are the world’s most widely accepted system for measuring relative extinction risk. All assessments followed the Guidelines for Application of IUCN Red List Criteria at Regional Levels (IUCN 2003).  A small team, in collaboration with IUCN Specialist Groups and other experts, compiled information on each species. Regional assessments were carried out at an assessment workshop and through correspondence with relevant experts. More than 250 mammal experts from a large number of different countries in the Mediterranean and elsewhere actively participated in the data compilation, assessment and review process.

Results

One in six (16.5%) Mediterranean mammals assessed are threatened with extinction at the regional scale, with a further 8% assessed as Near Threatened. One mammal species, the Sardinian Pika Prolagus sardus, has become globally extinct since 1500 A.D. and a further seven species, including the Lion Panthera leo and Tiger P. tigris have been extirpated from the Mediterranean region. More than one-quarter (27%) of Mediterranean mammals have declining populations, 31% are stable, while for a further 40% the population trend is unknown; only 3% of species populations are increasing. A number of these increases are due to successful species-specific conservation action.

 

Summary of numbers of mammal species assessed within each IUCN category of threat

*Excluding 23 species that are considered Not Applicable as they are of marginal occurrence in the region.

 

Red List status of assessed mammals in the Mediterranean Population trends of Mediterranean mammals


Terrestrial mammal biodiversity is greatest in mountainous parts of the region, with particularly high concentrations of threatened species found in the mountains of Turkey, the Levant, and northwest Africa. The Maghreb holds a large number of endemic species, which are unique to the Mediterranean and found nowhere else in the world. Although the Sahara has relatively low species richness, a high proportion of Saharan species are threatened. Of the 49 threatened species, 20 (41%) are unique to the region and occur nowhere else in the world.

 

Distribution of threatened mammals in the Mediterranean


The greatest threat to Mediterranean mammals is destruction and degradation of habitat, caused by a variety of factors including agricultural intensification, urbanization, pollution, and climate change. Human disturbance, overexploitation and invasive species are also major threats.

Conservation recommendations

  • For bats, the main recommendations are to improve the legal protection framework, to better enforce existing legislation, and to encourage more environmentally friendly practices in agriculture and when restoring buildings. Further research is needed on a number of issues including habitat and foraging requirements, population size and trends, impacts of pesticide use on prey species, and methods to minimize impacts of wind farms.
  • For non-volant (flightless) small mammals more sustainable agricultural practices are needed to prevent habitat loss and degradation both from agricultural intensification and land abandonment. Legislation and enforcement of existing measures are needed to prevent the introduction of alien invasive species such as the American Mink Neovison vison. Measures to raise public awareness of the diversity, importance and threats to small mammals are needed in order to modify their “pest” image and explain their ecological importance.
  • For large mammals, recommendations include improvement of management of protected areas and of the wider environment, better enforcement of existing laws and regulations controlling hunting, and development and implementation of species-specific management plans for the most threatened species. Restoring habitats and wild prey populations at the landscape level is essential for the conservation of threatened large carnivores; large herbivores similarly require landscape- level actions to ensure the maintenance of grazing systems. The conservation of large carnivores can be controversial – understanding people’s attitudes towards predators and gaining their acceptance is crucial to the success of conservation and management programmes.

For more information

Download the report The status and distribution of Mediterranean mammals in English, Spanish or French from the Publications section.