Photo credit: Igor Shpilenok
The Russian Desman, Desmana moschata, is listed as ‘VULNERABLE’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM. This small insectivore belongs to the same family as moles, but is adapted to a more aquatic lifestyle. A rare species, having recently gone extinct in Belarus, it now only occurs in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Russian Desman was massively exploited for its fur and musk glands, and as a result, the population was decimated. Although this species is now fully protected and the fur trade no longer poses a threat, large numbers of desmans are accidently trapped in fishing nets. Additional threats include overfishing of prey stock, habitat loss and degradation, water pollution, and competition from introduced species.
A number of reserves have been established to protect the last unspoilt wetlands within the Russian Desman’s range. Given the threat posed by current fishing practices, campaigns are underway to ban the use of nylon nets and electric landing nets.
To learn more about the Russian Desman, click here. Or visit the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ by clicking their logo below.
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