Belarus boasts a rich and varied wildlife. However, if we treat it in a barbaric way, then it is quite possible that our descendants will only have vivid pictures depicting most representatives of the local flora and fauna. Over the past 300 years, the wild nature of our country has disappeared 10 animal species. In the blacklist included in Red Data Book of Belarus, some of them are marked with the category "Regionally Disappeared', others are gone forever.
In appearance and lifestyle, this bird is similar to a small ostrich. She has a strong physique, powerful legs and contrasting plumage. Weight depends on gender and season and sometimes reaches 18 kg. The bustard flies well, but in case of danger, it first flees, developing at the same time a very high speed. The bird's wingspan is 170-260 cm. However, despite such an impressive size, the bustard has a quiet, hoarse voice, and when it lek, it seems to sigh "oh, oh."
The bustard chooses steppes and savannahs with a plot of trees as a habitat, as well as vast meadows and agricultural fields with good soil. The bird feeds on grains and seeds, young grass, preys on small amphibians and insects.
According to Belarusian ornithologists in Belarus the bustard nested until the second quarter of the 20th century, and after 1931, encounters with it ceased to be recorded. The main and only reason for the disappearance of birds in our country is human activity.
Baltic sturgeon (Atlantic)
A fish reaching a length of up to 350 cm and weighing up to 320 kg. The maximum age documented is 100 years. In their habitats, sturgeons prefer to stick to the bottom surface. They feed on worms, mollusks and fish. They spawn in summer and autumn, at this time the female sturgeon has caviar in its abdomen weighing up to a quarter of the mass of the fish itself. At one time, she can sweep up to several million eggs.
In our country, the Baltic sturgeon was found in large numbers in the Neman. At the end of spring, from the North and Baltic Seas, fish went to spawn in fresh water channels and thus fell on territory of Belarus. So it was until 1910, and then the number of individuals swimming to the Neman began to decline due to the merciless extermination and economic development of rivers. And when the Kaunas hydroelectric power station was launched, its dam blocked the way to the upper reaches of the Neman, thereby blocking the way for fish to enter the country.
According to the famous ichthyologist Zhukov, the last Baltic sturgeon in Belarus was caught in 1958. Since then, this fish has not been found with us.
A very unusual animal of dense build, the appearance of which is the absence of auricles and a long movable proboscis-nose.
The habitat of the desman is water bodies overgrown with wetland vegetation, however, with open water surface and low, not swampy shores made of light soil. The animals build complex multi-tiered burrows in which they live singly, in pairs and in families. In winter, one such hole can contain up to 14 individuals of different ages and sexes, including close relatives and even former neighbors.
The basis of the diet of the muskrat is sedentary invertebrates, and aquatic plants are added to them in autumn and winter. In search of food, animals always move along the same underwater paths at the bottom.
Desman cubs are born blind and naked, half the size of a rat. On the 40th day, their eyes open, after which the young animals become independent.
Desmans lived on the territory of modern Belarus for about 30 million years. The reason for their complete disappearance is considered to be the spread of aggressive American mink, which replaced a weaker rival. The last time a muskrat was seen was in early 1970.
This stocky predator is a member of the largest terrestrial mustelid species. Although externally, the wolverine looks more like a bear the size of an average dog. She has an excellent sense of smell and hearing, but her eyesight is not very good. Wolverines live for about 15 years.
In winter, the basis of the diet of these predators is ungulates, in particular deer and elk. In the mountain taiga, the wolverine preys on red deer, musk deer and roe deer. At the same time, it attacks only weakened, sick or wounded animals, which are easier to overcome. It does not disdain small rodents, ruining bird nests and eating pine nuts and berries. However, most of the food of wolverines is carrion. The glutton (the Latin name “gulo”) was nicknamed not for gluttony, since it eats much less than it fits in its stomach, but because the predator constantly makes large supplies of food “just in case”.
Wolverines have an extraordinary mind, they know how to calculate situations and deftly bypass traps. The victims of these predators have no chance of salvation, because they are well aware of the habits of those who are hunted.
At the beginning of spring, two to four cubs are born to wolverines, the male takes an active part in maintaining the life of the family, getting food for everyone. In the first winter, the mother teaches the cubs to hunt large ungulates, and by the end of the cold weather, the matured young go to free bread.
One can only guess about the reasons why the wolverine disappeared from the Belarusian forests. The animal has never been numerous in Belarus, since this species needs a large area to live - up to 2000 km2. Most likely, wolverines disappeared from the territory of our country due to the development of civilization. The prey became smaller due to the fact that people mastered their habitats and tried with all their might to get rid of such an inconvenient neighbor.
It differs from its closest relative - a domestic cat - by its large size, unsociableness and aggressive disposition. Another distinguishing feature is a wide, as if chopped off at the end, tail. Forest cats prefer a solitary lifestyle, choosing habitats where hares, rabbits and birds nesting on the ground are found in large numbers. As a rule, these are deciduous and mixed forests.
According to scientific research, the ancestors of modern domestic baleen cats are a group of forest cats, domesticated about 10 thousand years ago in the Middle East. Growing and storing grain during the Neolithic agricultural revolution led to the invasion of rodents on the settlements of people, and then came wild cats.
In Belarus, the last forest cat was killed in 1927 in the Borisov region. Today it is considered extinct.
In 2017, reports appeared on the Internet that a camera trap installed in the exclusion zone in the village of Rozhava, Narovlya district, recorded a single individual of a wild cat. According to the senior researcher of the Laboratory of Molecular Zoology of the Scientific and Practical Center of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus for Bioresources Valery Dombrovsky, in recent decades, these animals have become widely distributed throughout the forest-steppe zone of Ukraine to the very left bank of the Dnieper. Most likely, this movement to the east also affected our country. But, of course, I want to believe that it was not a single stray specimen, and that wild cats will someday settle in our forests again.
The size was slightly smaller than a domestic horse, dense and stocky build, mouse color, with a solid black stripe "belt" along the back. Presumably it is a direct descendant of the steppe tarpan, which has adapted to forest life as a result of human persecution. In this regard, some scientists recognize the status of a subspecies for the forest tarpan.
Tarpans lived in herds of 10-15 heads, which were taken care of by a leader stallion. The animals fed on steppe grasses and young shoots of shrubs and trees. In unfavorable periods, wild horses set off on long migrations through deserted expanses. They were rather fast and very hardy animals, wild and angry, not tameable in adulthood.
In Central Europe, forest tarpans were exterminated in the early Middle Ages, in the eastern regions - at the beginning of the 19th century. On the modern territory of the Kaliningrad region, the last wild horse was killed in 1814.
In Belarus, the tarpan was distributed everywhere, being an object of hunting since the Neolithic. By the 16th-17th centuries. met only in dense forests in the west of the country, the last individuals from Belovezhskaya Pushcha were distributed to peasants in 1808, who managed to tame the animals and use them for work.
The progenitor of modern bulls, lived in the forest-steppes and steppes of the Eastern Hemisphere of the Earth.
It was a large strong beast weighing up to 800 kg, with a high-set head crowned with long sharp horns. It fed on grass, leaves and shoots of shrubs and trees. In the warm season, the tours could live both in small groups and alone, but in winter they huddled together in a larger herd. Strength and aggressiveness allowed the animals to cope with any predator, so these wild bulls had practically no natural enemies. However, human economic activity and intensive hunting have done their dark work.
By 1400, tours were preserved only in the hard-to-reach forests of Poland, Lithuania and Belarus, where they were under protection and were considered park animals of the royal lands. In 1599 in the royal forest not far from Warsaw it was still possible to meet a small herd of tours in 24 individuals. By 1602, it had decreased to 4 animals, and in 1627, due to a disease that affected a genetically weak and isolated population of animals, died the last tour on earth.
Currently, work is underway to revive tours on Belarusian soil. As part of the project "Sustainable management of forest and wetland ecosystems to achieve multi-purpose benefits" from Holland, several farms in the country will bring tour-like Heck cows, bred in 1920-30. in Germany.
The name of this butterfly from the family of sailboats is associated with the name of the beautiful Greek god Apollo. It is the largest species in its genus. Interestingly, the pattern on the wings of Apollo has about 600 variants, and the red spots signal to the birds that the insect is poisonous. Also, to scare away an attacker, butterflies make a hissing sound by rubbing their paws against their wings.
Insects love light places with flowers of ragwort, cornflower or clover, on which they feed. Females lay up to 100 eggs, which overwinter with a caterpillar formed inside.
On the territory of Belarus, the Apollo butterfly has not been recorded for more than 40 years, so this species is considered extinct. The reason for this was the destruction of natural habitats of insects.
Common pearl oyster
A bivalve mollusk up to 13 cm long, up to 5 cm wide. It lives in clean river streams and rivers with a sandy-stony bottom in many countries of the Northern Hemisphere. The pearl oyster breathes with gills located on both sides of the leg, and is a filter feeder, filtering out organic detritus and unicellular green algae from the water. In a day, she passes through herself more than 50 liters. water.
The life expectancy of pearl mussels is 50-60 years, there are data on specimens 120 and even 250 years old.
The life of mollusks proceeds practically without movement, even during the breeding season (in summer) they sit, half buried in the sand or attached to stones. Males release seed cells into the water, which are picked up by the current and carried to the shell valves of females, thereby fertilizing them.
The emerging glochidia larvae attach themselves to the covers of cyprinids and parasitize them for 8 to 11 months, slowing down their aging and prolonging their life.
The common pearl oyster was noted in Belarusian reservoirs until the middle of the 19th century. The disappearance is associated with the industrial and poaching of shellfish to obtain mother-of-pearl and freshwater pearls, as well as with river pollution, land reclamation, acid rain and factors that reduce the number of host fish (mining, construction of dams, etc.)
Fish of the carp family, similar to roach, but significantly larger than it, an adult can weigh 6 kg. It has powerful teeth with which it crushes the shells of mollusks and the shells of arthropods that it feeds on. The carp is strong and fast, but rather cautious and shy. It can stay in hiding for several hours until it is convinced that the danger has passed.
Reproduction of carp occurs with the beginning of spring, during this period the males are painted in bright colors and acquire cone-shaped tubercles on the body. Females spawn on rocky bottoms, in areas with clear water and fast currents. At the same time, the water temperature should rise to at least +10. Before this, the males clear the place with the help of sharp tubercles from algae and other debris. At one time, the female can lay up to 100 thousand eggs.
Common carp is a typical anadromous fish associated with fresh water only during the breeding season. It lives in the Black and Azov Seas and previously reached Belarus and beyond along the Dnieper. Until 1940, fish were found in the Pripyat, Sozh, Berezina, Svisloch and other tributaries of the Dnieper. An obstacle to the upstream migration of carp was the construction of the Dnieper hydroelectric dam.