Cruel hunting practices, mounting pollution and the destruction of natural habitat have put a number of Lebanon's animal species on the endangered list. In order to bring their plight to light, we've listed eight animals currently under threat in the country.

1. Lebanon Mountain Viper (Montivipera bornmuelleri)

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The mountain viper can only be found in two other countries in the world. Though the Lebanon mountain viper is venomous, there have been no recorded cases to date of it attacking people (technically making it less dangerous than humans). You might catch a glimpse of it slithering through high-altitude, mountainous environments.

2. Fringe-toed Lizard (Acanthodactylus schreiberi)

(Image via naturewonders)

This little guy likes sunbathing and can be spotted camouflaged on the shores of Tyre or scurrying along the sand with its long, curved claws. Fringe-toed lizards have already gone extinct near Beirut due to urban development, a factor which, along with sand erosion, continues to endanger them.

3. Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)

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Loggerheads are the largest of all hard-shelled sea turtles and undergo a journey that can span thousands of miles in order to return to the shore where they hatched to lay their own eggs. The beaches of Tyre and Saida are their usual egg-laying sites, and what makes their conservation even more vital is the fact that a large number of newly-hatched turtles are eaten by predators or fall victim to the same human activities that endanger their parents before they even reach adulthood.

In February, you may remember a dead sea turtle caught the public's attention after a photo of the animal was shared widely on social media. The sea turtle, believed to be around 50-years-old, reportedly died after choking on a plastic bag it mistook for a jellyfish.

4. Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus)

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Our waters host one of the rarest seal species in the entire world, critically endangered with only a shocking 500 remaining seals left worldwide. Tragically, just last week a pregnant monk seal was found dead near the Rawche rocks, and though the cause of death remains unknown, it is speculated that she became entangled in a fishing net.

5. Striped Dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba)

(Image via cwazores,com)

Named due to their characteristic dark gray stripe, these dolphins are the only species to “roto-tail,” or rapidly rotate their tails as they leap out of the water. Though dolphins resemble fish, they are mammals that need oxygen to survive. They drown when caught in nets that prevent them from rising to the surface to breathe.

6. Schreiber’s Bat (Miniopterus schreibersii)

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These bats prefer munching on insects to blood-sucking, and are small enough to fit into the palm of your hand. They can be found in caves, forming colonies ranging from dozens to thousands. Unfortunately, excessive tourism, lighting fires in caves and blocking cave entrances have all contributed to their roosting habitat disturbance, which has resulted in threatening their survival as well as affecting other bat species.

7. Grey Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes)

(Image via wikipedia)

Once viewed as animals that should be protected to maintain natural balance, grey wolves are now usually shot at sight or even poisoned. Many people fear they may attack them or eat their livestock, especially during harsh winter weather when they draw closer to human settlements, but wolves generally prefer staying away from urban areas and feeding on wild boars, rabbits or hares.

8. Striped Hyena (Hyaena hyaena syriaca)

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Hyenas are the subject of outlandish and erroneous myths in Lebanon, which claim that they either spray their urine on humans or use their shiny eyes to mesmerize them, drag them into their dens and kill them. However, absolutely none of these myths are true: hyenas actually have little interest in people, preferring to be left alone and hunt primarily at night.

There are a number of other endangered species in Lebanon and all of them need protection. Thankfully, some organizations have devoted themselves to preventing their local extinction.

Animal Encounter is one such example: it is the only center in Lebanon, and the first ever in the Middle East, dedicated to Lebanese wildlife conservation and educating the public on its importance. It has so far released 30 hyena cubs back into the wild after successful captive breeding and has also worked to rehabilitate injured animals such as badgers, jackals, wild cats, and birds.

To learn more about Animal Encounter’s work and how you can help spread an awareness and appreciation of these creatures and the natural balance they maintain, visit their website.

Special thanks to Dr. Michel Bariche, Dr. Riyad Sadek and Dr. Mounir Abi-Said for generously providing their time and expertise during the compilation of this list.

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