Protected animals in Croatia

Protected animals in Croatia

Although the Croatian fauna remains abundant and diverse due to the geographical position, geological history, current climate conditions and a large number of protected areas, this does not preclude the extinction of certain species, which, as always, is most commonly caused by humans. Excessive water, soil and air pollution, intensive farming, watercourse interventions, illegal landfills, building area expansion, road construction, mass tourism and numerous other human activities directly or indirectly decrease the number of animal species. Overhunting and overfishing, as well as the introduction of alien species, also pose a threat to a large number of species, many of which are endemic and relictual, which means that they used to be more widespread.


With around 400 bird species recorded in Croatia, 230 of which are nesting birds, Croatia ranks among the countries with the most diverse ornithofauna, or bird fauna, in Europe. While a large number of these singing feathered creatures inhabiting Croatia is widespread, some are limited to a specific area. For example, you will find the Mediterranean gull exclusively in the extreme south of the country, the griffon vulture on the Kvarner Islands, the wood grouse on Velebit and in Gorski Kotar and the lesser spotted eagle around the flooded areas surrounding the Sava River.


If you were wondering what the smallest bird in Croatia is, the answer “weighs” a single teaspoon, or a mere 5 g, which is the exact weight of the common firecrest.

Located on the other side of the size spectrum are two Croatian “giants”, the griffon vulture and the white-tailed eagle, which are birds that boast a wingspan exceeding 2 m.

Conversely, the spoonbill (Platalea leucordia) population in Croatia is scarce, which is why this unusual bird is a strictly protected species. It feeds on fish, frogs, larvae and crustaceans and catches its “snacks” with an odd spoon-shaped bill after which it was named. If you would like to see this valuable bird, visit Lonjsko Polje Nature Park or some of the ponds in Slavonia.


Perhaps you harbour a deep appreciation and respect for owls, birds that are synonymous with wisdomOne of the most common owls in Croatia is the long-eared owl, which was named for the two long distinct feathers on its head that look like ears when raised.


Large carnivorans, such as wolves, bears and lynx, which are practically extinct in most western European countries, live in the beech and fir forests of the Croatian mountain regions along with other large mammals, such as wild boars, deer, chamois and a bevy of birds and other typical mountain species. The lynx is the largest cat living in Europe and it is estimated that no more than 40 to 60 individuals still live in the areas of Lika, Gorski Kotar and Ćićarija.

Nenad Rebršak

An animal that immediately comes to mind when it comes to underwater dexterity and agility is the river otter, which found its home in a number of Croatian rivers and near ponds.

Also located in the Croatian mountains are habitats of some smaller carnivorans, such as martens, badgers and foxes, with the Balkan snow vole and the garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus dalmaticus) as particularly notable Dinaride relicts.


While humans may fear snakes, the latter still play an important role in nature, which is why a majority of them is protected by Croatian law. You may encounter protected venomous snakes, such as the horned viper and the meadow viper, in the mountain regions.


The fear of carnivorans is exaggerated and unfounded. Although close encounters between carnivorans and humans have been recorded, there are no accounts of unprovoked attacks by the former. You should keep in mind that wild animals are timid and shy away from humans, unless they feel threatened.

Hermann's tortoise, a frequent inhabitant of gardens in the Dalmatian region, is another animal protected by law that has become endangered because of environmental change, overhunting, fires and illegal trade.

If you are staying in coastal Croatia, with some luck you just might see the Mediteranean house gecko, the symbol of Lošinj Island, scaling the walls of your apartment. It is an extemely nimble little animal that climbs completely vertical surfaces with its five toepads.

Croatia also boasts an extensive cave fauna in the myriad underground habitats. The most famous cave bivalve in the world is the Congeria kusceri, a Dinaride endemic relict.


“Hidden” in the depths of the Dinarides is the olm, the only subterranean vertebrate and one of just a few that have completely adapted to life in cave conditions. It is an endemic species common in subterranean freshwater habitats of the Dinaric karst areas that, as far as Croatia is concerned, mostly inhabits caves and swallow holes from Istria to Dubrovnik and constitutes an invaluable natural resource.


Almost all of the bat species that are widespread in Europe, just over 30 of them, have been recorded in Croatia and are protected by law. These very timid animals are the only actively flying mammals and are very useful because they feed on insects.


One of the most endangered freshwater fish is the softmouth trout, which inhabits the clean and cold oxygen-laden karst waters and is a species endemic to the central and southern Adriatic basin.


The Adriatic Sea boasts vast biodiversity and as such is the home to protected and rare species of marine gastropods, including the giant tun, Triton's trumpet and the zoned mitre.


Whales and dolphins live in seas and oceans, including the Adriatic Sea. There are various species of these wonderful aquatic animals and each one is protected by Croatian law, which prohibits hunting or endangering them in any way.

There are 220 individual bottlenose dolphins and a small number of short-beaked common dolphins living in the Adriatic Sea.

Blue World Institute

The Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) or “morski čovik”(sea-man) is one of the most endangered sea mammals and the rarest seal in the world.

There are an estimated 200 specimens living in the Mediterranean. The last monk seal in the Adriatic was caught in 1960 near the island of Vis.


Corals are rightfully considered the red treasure of the Adriatic. You will often hear that they are minerals by skeleton, plants in appearance and animals in reality. They are very fragile and as such are frequently destroyed by anchors dragging along the seabed and by careless divers. With corals being sold as souvenirs and jewellery, several species, such as the red coral, have almost been wiped out.


Ever since 1995, the date shell has been a strictly protected species of bivalve that is prohibited from being harvested from the sea. 

Goran Šafarek

The noble pen shell is a protected Adriatic species that inhabits the sandy seabeds and is a notable inhabitant of seagrass meadows.

With the development of tourism, their habitats have been abruptly decimated for their shells, which are used to make decorative items and for anchoring ships.


People often collect aquatic organisms (such as sponges, shellfish, starfish, sea urchins, sea snails etc.) as keepsakes, but repeating the action for thousands of times cause negative effects that disrupt the natural balance, which is why you should refrain from doing this. These organisms belong in the sea!

Due to intensive, non-selective and, unfortunately, illegal fishing, many fish species in the Adriatic are severely endangered. This particularly applies to cartilaginous fishes, such as the blue shark, large predators, such as tunas and swordfish and other economically significant species.

Miro Andrić

The seahorse is also an endangered species in the Adriatic. This benevolent and gentle sea creature makes for an easy prey for unconscientious divers who fail to comprehend that living beings are not souvenirs.

It is important to bear in mind that hunting or killing strictly protected animals, disturbing them in any way, especially during periods of breeding and rearing, migration and hibernation, deliberately destroying their nests and broods, as well as destroying their breeding and resting areas is prohibited. You should also be mindful of the fact that the law provides for financial penalties for improper conduct or breach thereof.