What is the IUCN Red List?

What is the IUCN Red List?

The IUCN is the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The IUCN, amongst other tasks, compiles a list of animals and plants from around the word that are considered to be threatened – in danger of becoming extinct. The inventory, or list, is called the Red List of Threatened Species.

The aim of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is to create a ‘universally accepted system of classification of species at high risk of extinction globally.’ It is an international standard with a scientifically tested assessment. 

Each species is assessed according to a set of established criteria, and rated on a scale ranging from ‘least concern’ to ‘extinct.’

The classifications are:

Not Evaluated

Data Deficient

Least Concern 

Near Threatened



Critically Endangered

Extinct in the Wild


Not Evaluated means that a species has not had an assessment yet, whereas Data Deficient means that there is not enough information about the species to assess it. 

Least Concern means that the species is common, and often widespread, or protected in its habitat. An example of a species of Least Concern is the Blue Monkey.

Blue Monkey

Near Threatened means that a species may be threatened with extinction in the near future if it is not protected (such as the Hermann’s Tortoise and the Maned Wolf). 

Hermann’s Tortoise
Maned Wolf

Vulnerable means that the species is likely to become endangered unless their survival and reproduction improve (such as the Siamese Fighting Fish).

Siamese Fighting Fish

Endangered means that the species is in a very high risk of extinction (such as the Przewalski’s Horse).

Przewalski’s Horse

Critically Endangered means that a species is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild (such as the Lake Patzcuaro Salamander).

Lake Patzcuaro Salamander

Extinct in the Wild means a species is only living in captivity in a zoo or protected reserve, and can no longer be found in the wild in its native habitat (such as the Socorro Dove).

Socorro Dove

Extinct means that no known animal of a particular species is living – the last of its kind has died (such as the Dodo).


The IUCN was established in 1964. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species provides information about the range, population size, habitat, ecology, trade, threats, and conservation actions. The Red List is updated regularly. For example, if a species increases its populations due to zoo breeding programs, or the establishment of protected reserves for animals, a species can move up the rankings to a better position on the Red List.

Currently, there are more than 120,000 species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, with more than 32,000 species threatened with extinction (41% of amphibians, 34% of conifer trees, 33% of marine corals, 26% of mammals, and 14% of birds).

IUCN 2020. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2020-2. https://www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 08 August 2020.

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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