The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Throughout 2014 we are celebrating the significant contribution of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in guiding conservation action and policy decisions over the past 50 years. The IUCN Red list is an invaluable conservation resource, a health check for our planet – a Barometer of Life.

The IUCN Red List is the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species and their links to livelihoods. Far more than a list of species and their status, the IUCN Red List is a powerful tool to inform and catalyse action for biodiversity conservation and policy change, critical to protecting the natural resources we need to survive. It provides information on population size and trends, geographic range and habitat needs of species.

Many species groups including mammals, amphibians, birds, reef building corals and conifers have been comprehensively assessed. However, there is much more to be done and increased investment is needed urgently to build The IUCN Red List into a more complete ‘Barometer of Life’. To do this we need to increase the number of species assessed from the current count of 71,576 to at least 160,000 by 2020, improving the taxonomic coverage and thus providing a stronger base to enable better conservation and policy decisions.

Join us in celebrating the contribution that The IUCN Red List has made in guiding conservation for 50 years – spread the word, get involved, follow our news   @amazingspecies

How does the IUCN Red List help save species?

The IUCN Red List has many uses in conservation including:

  • Conservation Planning – informing species-based conservation actions and identifying globally important sites for conservation including Important Plant Areas, Important Bird Areas, Key Biodiversity Areas and Alliance for Zero Extinction sites. 
  • Decision-making – Influencing conservation decisions at multiple scales, from environmental impact assessments to international multilateral environmental agreements.
  • Monitoring – Indicating the current status of species and revealing trends in their extinction risk over time, to track progress towards biodiversity targets.

The  IUCN Red List is used by government agencies, wildlife departments, conservation-related non-governmental organizations (NGOs), natural resource planners, educational organizations, and many others interested in reversing, or at least halting the decline in biodiversity

The IUCN Red List partnership

The IUCN Red List is produced and managed by the IUCN Global Species Programme and the Species Survival Commission (SSC). The IUCN Red List Partnership consists of members and partners of IUCN who are making a particularly significant contribution to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species ™. This takes the form of technical or financial support or both. The Partnership currently consists of:

BirdLife International
Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI)
Conservation International
Sapienza Università di Roma
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
Texas A&M University
Zoological Society of London

The Head of the Global Species Programme is the focal point for the IUCN Red List Partnership.

A Brief History of the IUCN Red List

The IUCN Red List  was first conceived in 1964 and set a standard for species listing and conservation assessment efforts. For 50 years the Species Survival Commission (SSC) in conjunction with the IUCN Species Programme, has been evaluating the conservation status of species and subspecies on a global scale - highlighting those threatened with extinction and promoting their conservation.

Over time, however, IUCN recognised that a more objective and scientific system for determining threat status was needed, one that drew on advances in the science of conservation biology and other disciplines. There was also a need for a more accurate system for use at the national and regional level. The IUCN Red List Categories evolved over a four-year period through extensive consultation and testing with more than 8000 SSC members, and the wider scientific community. The more precise and quantitative Red List Categories and Criteria were adopted by IUCN in 1994.

In 1988 all bird species were evaluated, and in the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals the conservation status of every mammal species in the world was assessed for the first time. These were major milestones in conservation because not only was the overall status of mammals and birds determined, but a baseline was established from which to monitor future trends. For the 1996 list 5,205 species were evaluated resulting in 25% of all mammals and 11% of all birds being listed as threatened.  In 2013 there were over 70,000 species on the IUCN Red List and all mammals, birds, amphibians, sharks, reef-buliding corals, cycads and conifers have been assessed.

The system used ensure the highest standards of documentation (supporting information), information management, training, and scientific credibility.

search for species
  • IUCN Red List
Help make The IUCN Red List a Barometer of Life
  • Donate to IUCN Red List
Follow us

Facebook Flickr Twitter Youtube

The Starting Point for Conservation Acion
  • Pygma Slow Loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus) Vulnerable
The IUCN Red List Partnership
  • The IUCN Red List Partnership