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The SEM was founded in 1988 at a meeting in Paris to discuss the preparation of a European Mammals Atlas. The purposes of the Society were:

The Atlas of European Mammals was published in 1999 and is now widely used as a reference work.

The EMMA2 project, to publish a second edition of the Atlas, was begun in 2016 and has required the creation of a new organisation to support the work and assist with fund-raising. We have now set up the European Mammal Foundation as a Foundation (Stichting) registered in the Netherlands.

Officers of the Foundation are:

Chairman: Tony Mitchell-Jones (UK)

Vice-chairman: Johan Thissen (NL)

Sectretary: Laurent Schley (LU)

Treasurer: Svetlana Miteva (NL)