The red deer (Cervus elaphus) is one of the largest deer species. The red deer inhabits most of Europe, the Caucasus Mountains region, Asia Minor, parts of western Asia, and central Asia. It also inhabits the Atlas Mountains region between Morocco and Tunisia in northwestern Africa, being the only species of deer to inhabit Africa. Red deer have been introduced to other areas, including Australia, New Zealand and Argentina. In many parts of the world, the meat (venison) from red deer is used as a food source.
Red deer are ruminants, characterized by an even number of toes, and a four-chambered stomach. Genetic evidence indicates the red deer (Cervus elaphus) as traditionally defined is a species group rather than a single species, although it remains disputed as to exactly how many species the group includes. The slightly larger American elk or wapiti, native to North America and eastern parts of Asia, represents a distinct species besides red deer. The ancestor of all red deer, including wapiti, probably originated in central Asia and probably resembled sika deer.
Although at one time red deer were rare in some areas, they were never close to extinction. Reintroduction and conservation efforts, especially in the United Kingdom, have resulted in an increase of red deer populations, while other areas, such as North Africa, have continued to show a population decline.
Fauna of Europe is all the animals living in Europe and its surrounding seas and islands. Since there is no natural biogeographic boundary in the east and south between Europe and Asia, the term "fauna of Europe" is somewhat elusive. Europe is the western part of the Palearctic ecozone (which in turn is part of the Holarctic). Lying within the temperate region, (north of the equator) the wildlife is not as rich as in warmer regions, but nevertheless diverse due to the variety of habitats and the faunal richness of the Eurasia as a whole.
Before the arrival of humans European fauna was more diverse and widespread than today. The European megafauna of today is much reduced from its former splendour. The Holocene extinction drastically reduced numbers and distribution of megafauna. Many of these species still exist in smaller number, while others thrive in developed continent free from natural predators. Many other species went extinct all together.