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International Union for Conservation of Nature – IUCN & the Red Lists – Endangered & Threatened Species

Conserving biological diversity or bio-diversity is the mission of the IUCN or International Union for Conservation of Nature“Bio-diversity” means having a diverse or wide range of living species on Earth, to conserve or continue a range of Life on Earth.  Bio-diversity is usually explored at three levels – genetic diversity, species diversity and ecosystem diversity. These three levels work together to create the complexity of life on Earth.  See the Australian Museum page below for an explanation of these types of Diversity.


The IUCN Programme provides the framework for planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating the conservation work undertaken by the IUCN Commissions and the Secretariat with and on behalf of IUCN Members. The Programme is discussed and approved by Member organizations every four years at IUCN’s World Conservation Congress.

You can download their 2013 to 2016 Draft Programme at the following page.   Look for the link on the right-hand side



Their programme reinforces the fact that nature is our life support system.  The Programme claims that we should support the diversity of life and nature for its own sake, as well as for sustainability, or in other words to meet human needs and wants sustainably.  I agree.  One of the indicators that the IUCN uses every four years to measure the impact of their programmes is a measure of the proportion of the most important areas for biodiversity which are effectively managed for the conservation of genetic diversity, species diversity and ecosystem diversity.  This measure is based upon two datasets – Key Biodiversity Areas and the World Database on Protected Areas.

This impact is also measured through The IUCN Red List Index which can demonstrate genuine changes in conservation status of sets of species as a result of conservation action.

There is an IUCN Red List of Threatened Species that measure extinction risk, and an IUCN Red List of Ecoystems that measure elimination risk.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species.   The goal of the IUCN Red List is to provide information and analyses on the status, trends and threats to species to inform and catalyse action for biodiversity conservation.  You can read an overview of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species at the URL below.


The Categories and Criteria for listing were revised in 2001.  All new assessments and reassessments on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species use the 2001 IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria version 3.1.   Some assessments from 1996-2000 have also been converted to follow the revised categories and criteria (all of these are clearly indicated).  The IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria are intended to be an easily and widely understood system for classifying species at high risk of global extinction.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classifications

Source for Diagram

These classifications can be listed as follows, from extinct to extinct in the wild (but not in captivity) to lower levels of threat, i.e. to “Least Concern” and include “Data Deficient” and “Not Evaluated”, which are self-explanatory.  The Red List Category may be written out in full or abbreviated as follows (when translated into other languages, the abbreviations should be in  English), e.g.   for Extinct use EX.

Extinct, EX
Extinct in the Wild, EW
Critically Endangered, CR
Endangered, EN
Vulnerable, VU
Near Threatened, NT
Least Concern, LC
Data Deficient, DD
Not Evaluated, NE

Please click on “Categories” in the list at the top of the page linked below, OR scroll down the page below to part 4 (iv) “The Categories” to read full explanations about what all these categories mean.


From the Home page of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, you can type in the common name or scientific name of a species (animal or plant) that you would like to search upon for its conservation status – into the field “Enter Red List Search Terms“.   Click on Go (to the right,) and then on the resultant page, click on the Species name in red and in italics and underlined, for complete information.

You can also click on “Other Search Options” to refine your Search, e.g. type “mouse” into the main Search field, where it says “Enter Red List Search Term(s)“, then click on “Other Search Options“.   Click on “Assessment” and un-tick / un-check all boxes except Vulnerable.  Then you need to click on the red right-pointing arrow to add the selection to the column in the right, and click on “Run Search“.   As an example, when you see the results, click on Akodon surdus or Silent Grass Mouse.  You will see the status of this poor mouse moved from “Least Concern” (lower risk) in 1996 to Vulnerable in 2008 (12 years later), i.e. these mice are fewer than before.

You can click on “Images and External Links” then click on the Search button next to Google to come up with a picture of this cute Mouse – Akodon surdus or the Silent Grass Mouse.

Hopefully, you can also find some species whose conservation status has moved in the other direction, e.g. from Vulnerable to Least Concern.


If you click on the box, titled “Amazing Species”, on the right of the IUCN Red List home page, it will take you to a page with thumb-nails of amazing assessed animal and plant species.

You can then click on any picture, for example, the Bush Dog, and get a PDF document (viewable using Adobe  Reader) with a picture of the animal or plant and conservation information.

In February, 2011, draft categories and criteria for an IUCN Red List of Ecosystems were published in Conservation Biology.  An article about establishing IUCN Red List criteria for Threatened Ecosystems can be read here,  for those who are interested in such important and indeed essential information.

For Conservation Databases, other than the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, please go to the IUCN page below.


Dodo bird

Please do what you can to prevent further extinctions.   I have got a copy of the book above, “A Gap in Nature”.   You can read parts of it at this Amazon page, if you like.

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