Eagles are among the largest raptors in the world. The largest eagle native to Europe is the white-tailed eagle – Germany's heraldic animal. The white-tailed eagle was nearly extinct in Germany. Nowadays, this enormous bird even breeds near the gates of Berlin and on the edge of the Ruhr area. Most commonly, you can encounter the white-tailed eagle in northern Germany. It builds its massive nests in forests with old, sturdy trees or on cliffs. Today, there are approximately 970 pairs of white-tailed eagles living in Germany.
More information (in German)
WWF (in German)
Although the European wildcat bears a strong resemblance to its domesticated relatives, it is a separate species. The wildcat's range extended into the 20th century across almost all suitable habitats throughout the European continent. However, merciless persecution and the loss of large old forest areas affected the populations so severely that the wildcat was extinct in large parts of Germany by the middle of the 20th century. In 1984, some 40 years later, BUND Naturschutz launched a reintroduction campaign. Overall, the reintroduction of the wildcat is one of BUND Naturschutz's greatest success stories: today, there are 5,000 to 7,000 of the shy animals in Germany again.
Like almost all bird of prey species, the golden eagle was heavily hunted in Europe until the beginning of the 20th century, and as a result, its population was significantly reduced. Today, there are approximately 50 breeding pairs strictly protected in the German Alpine region. Thanks to the efforts of the WWF and other conservation organizations, four species of eagles live in Germany again today: White-tailed eagle, Osprey, Golden eagle, and Short-toed snake eagle.
Bearded vulture: The giants of the air are backThe bearded vulture was wiped out in Germany 140 years ago. Now there is new hope for the giant bird of prey: in the Berchtesgaden National Park, the first young animals have been successfully released into the wild. According to the Pro Bearded Vulture Foundation, around 220 specimens now live in the Alps again. With a wingspan of almost three meters and a body length of up to 125 centimeters, the bearded vulture is one of the largest flying birds in the world and is far larger than the golden eagle.
Bearded vulture webcam in the Berchtesgaden Alps
National Geographic (in German)
The European beaver, also called Eurasian beaver, is the largest rodent in Europe. For more than 150 years, the beaver was considered extinct in Germany. Today, thanks to intensive conservation efforts, populations have recovered somewhat and it is no longer considered endangered in Europe. According to estimates, there are currently around 40,000 beavers living again in Germany alone.
Moose are migrating into Germany! Although the large deer are mainly native to Scandinavia, smaller populations also live in Poland and the Czech Republic.
In Poland, populations were decimated to about 2,000 animals by the end of the 1990s, but since moose have been protected there, they have increased to 4,000 individuals and are increasingly pushing westward into Saxony, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. In summer, they swim through the Oder and Neisse rivers; in winter, they simply walk across the ice.
Until the early Middle Ages, large deer were still widespread throughout Germany. In his work 'De Bello Gallico,' Julius Caesar describes a purported hunting technique employed by the Germanic tribes. Cesar believed that moose had no knee joints and could not stand up on their own. Therefore, they would lean against trees to sleep. Germanic hunters would cleverly exploit this behavior by sawing down the trees. When an elk leaned against a tree, both the tree and the animal would fall to the ground, making for an easier hunt.
Przewalski's horses are the only wild horses we still have on our planet. The supposedly wild mustangs are feral descendants of runaway domestic horses. Przewalski horses, also called Thakis, are the sacred horses of Mongolia. The last free-living Przewalski horse was sighted in Mongolia in 1969. Since then, the Thakis were considered extinct in the wild. The survival of the Przewalski's horses is solely due to breeding programs in zoos and breeding centers. Since the 1990s, the horses have been reintroduced into the wild with the support of the WWF.
They have also been settled in Germany, where they live in the Döberitzer Heide nature reserve and the Schorfheide wildlife park in Brandenburg. They were settled here to return to their original behavior, largely uninfluenced by humans.
Bison in Germany: The return of the rustic giantsThe last free-living bison disappeared from Germany as early as 1750. Now Europe's largest land mammal may be on the verge of an astonishing comeback. All living bison today are the descendants of twelve animals from zoos and animal enclosures. There are now around 7,000 free-ranging bison in Europe again. Almost ten years ago, a small herd was released into the wild in the Rothaar Mountains in North Rhine-Westphalia. In Germany, the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research, the Humboldt University in Berlin and the environmental protection organization WWF are campaigning for the return of the bison.
Man had brought the gray seal to the brink of extinction, but since 2004, gray seals have been slowly returning: there are already more than 40,000 gray seals back in the northern Baltic Sea. From here, the animals are now conquering the German Baltic coast. The return of the grey seal to the German Baltic Sea is a great success for nature conservation, but also a highlight from a tourist point of view. With a length of 2 to 2.5 m and a body weight of up to 300 kg, the grey seal is Germany's largest predator. As top predators, they are at the end of the food chain and are an important indicator species for the state of the Baltic Sea ecosystem, which is facing major challenges due to the climate crisis.
The northern bald ibis with the striking head is one of the most endangered birds worldwide. In Germany, it was hunted to extinction by 1700. Through sophisticated breeding programs, nearly 200 birds were identified in the reintroduction populations in the European Alpine region at the beginning of 2022.
NABU (in German)
After being extinct in Germany for a long time, the first wolf pups were born in the wild in the year 2000. Since then, wolves have been reclaiming their old habitat. Once, the wolf was the most widely distributed mammal in the world, second only to humans. From many parts of Europe, the wolf completely disappeared, particularly where it was eradicated by humans. In Germany, the last traces of a wolf pack, for example, were lost around 1850 in Brandenburg. In 1990, the animals were placed under legal protection nationwide, laying the foundation for the return of wolves. As of October 2023, there are a total of 184 wolf packs, 47 pairs, and 22 sedentary individuals in Germany.
Germany used to be lynx territory. The Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) roamed in almost all of our forests. In the mid-19th century, the last one was shot. The BUND has been advocating for the return of lynxes since the 1970s. It is a gain for our local biodiversity that, according to the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, there are now 125 to 135 adult lynxes roaming through Germany - but far too few to ensure their long-term survival. Lynxes will only be able to reestablish themselves in Germany with the help of humans, and only through pan-European cooperation will this species have a chance of survival in Central Europe.
BUND (in German)
They compost biological waste, ensure that we can harvest fruits and vegetables, and fight pests in agriculture. Most of them are only a few millimeters in size, yet they are indispensable for survival and biodiversity on our planet: insects.
Insects are probably one of the most underestimated animal species, and we rarely notice their services for agriculture and health.
The idea of an Earth without insects is almost beyond imagination. However, their future appears grim. Our excessive exploitation of nature has set in motion a likely unparalleled mass extinction of insects, carrying profound implications for humanity. This silent catastrophe is unfolding rapidly, yet it goes largely unnoticed.
Insects form the foundation of the food chain for most land-dwelling species, and with their disappearance, hundreds of species lose their food source. The significance of insects to our food supply cannot be emphasized enough. Currently, 40 percent of all insect species worldwide are facing the threat of extinction. Over the past 27 years, the global insect biomass has plummeted by a staggering 76 percent. To halt the mass extinction of insects and safeguard our health and food production, a comprehensive shift towards sustainable agriculture is imperative.
But each individual can also contribute to insect conservation by creating a natural garden or balcony and opting for organically produced food.
Gardening tips for beginners (David Suzuki)
How to create a butterfly garden (David Suzuki)