German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Species conservation

Strictly protected native species

Some 500 native species are subject to strict protection by law

All wild animals and plants in Germany are afforded general protection under the provisions of the Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG). For example, it is forbidden to catch, injure or kill wild animals unless there is a justified reason. There are, however, some animals and plants which require special protection because they are deemed to be at risk. In turn, some of these specially protected species enjoy additional ‘strictly protected’ status.

Of Germany's 417 strictly protected animal species, more than half are birds and butterflies or moths

This strictly protected status applies to 417 of some 48,000 wild animal species in Germany. Most populations of these animal species are highly threatened. Birds and butterflies or moths (139 and 115 species, respectively) make up more than half of these strictly protected species, added to which come mammals and beetles. Well-known protected species include the white stork (Ciconia ciconia), the Apollo butterfly (Parnassius apollo) and the European hamster (Cricetus cricetus), along with less-common species such as the jewel beetle (Dicerca moesta).

More than 50 native plant species enjoy strict legal protection

52 ferns and flowering plants and one species of lichen of in total approximately 9,500 plant species enjoy strict legal protection under the Federal Nature Conservation Act. These include some orchid species such as the yellow lady’s slipper (Cypripedium calceolus) and the yellow wide-lip orchid (Liparis loeselii). Less well-known species include grasses like whiskered brome (Bromus grossus) and mossgrass (Coleanthus subtilis).

Legal bans to secure species populations

The Federal Nature Conservation Act contains a wide range of provisions to ensure these animals and plants are strictly protected. To protect populations of protected animal species in Germany, it is prohibited, among other things, to catch or kill such animals, to damage or destroy their nests and resting places, or to disturb them while they are breeding. To protect specially protected plants, it is prohibited, among other things, to dig up wild plants unless there is a justified reason or to trample them down or destroy them by other means. Additionally, far-reaching conservation provisions apply to many animal and plant species in relation to farming, forestry and fishing, and also concerning construction and building activities in the natural environment and landscape.

More information

Species Conservation (BfN-page)

WISIA (Online version: Information System on International Species Conservation)