Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan
Head and body length, 18-21 cm; tail 17-20 cm
Fewer than 30,000
Small floodplain lakes on the Volga, Don and Ural river basins in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan
This is one nose that really comes handy. The Russian desman's prominent proboscis breaches the surface like a periscope, taking in air as the little swimmer searches for snails, aquatic insects and the occasional slow-moving fish. A streamlined head, webbed feet and dense, waterproof fur complete a package perfectly designed for life in the water. Even desman's front door is submerged; it digs dens with underwater entrances to hide from predators. But it can't hide from the illegal fishing nets that claim so many desman lives. Or from the agricultural development that has reshaped so much of its habitat.