Endangered species

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Conservation status
Bufo periglenes2.jpg
Lower Risk

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Status iucn3.1.svg
Comparison of Red list classes above
and NatureServe status below
Status TNC.svg
The California condor is an endangered species. Note the wing tags used for population monitoring. Gymnogyps californianus -Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge, California, USA -flying-8.jpg
The California condor is an endangered species. Note the wing tags used for population monitoring.

An endangered species is a species that is very likely to become extinct in the near future, either worldwide or in a particular political jurisdiction. Endangered species may be at risk due to factors such as habitat loss, poaching and invasive species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List lists the global conservation status of many species, and various other agencies assess the status of species within particular areas. Many nations have laws that protect conservation-reliant species which, for example, forbid hunting, restrict land development, or create protected areas. Some endangered species are the target of extensive conservation efforts such as captive breeding and habitat restoration.


Human activity is a significant cause in causing some species to become endangered. [1] [2]

Conservation status

Photo of Pusa hispida saimensis, also known as Saimaa Ringed Seal, from 1956. Living only in Lake Saimaa, Finland, Saimaa Ringed Seals are among the most endangered seals in the world, having a total population of only about 400 individuals. Pusa hispida saimensis ca 1956.jpg
Photo of Pusa hispida saimensis, also known as Saimaa Ringed Seal, from 1956. Living only in Lake Saimaa, Finland, Saimaa Ringed Seals are among the most endangered seals in the world, having a total population of only about 400 individuals.

The conservation status of a species indicates the likelihood that it will become extinct. Multiple factors are considered when assessing the status of a species; e.g., such statistics as the number remaining, the overall increase or decrease in the population over time, breeding success rates, or known threats. [4] The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is the best-known worldwide conservation status listing and ranking system. [5]

Over 50% of the world's species are estimated to be at risk of extinction. [6] Internationally, 195 countries have signed an accord to create Biodiversity Action Plans that will protect endangered and other threatened species. In the United States, such plans are usually called Species Recovery Plans.

IUCN Red List

The Siberian tiger is an Endangered (EN) tiger subspecies. Three tiger subspecies are already extinct (see List of carnivorans by population). Panthera tigris altaica 13 - Buffalo Zoo.jpg
The Siberian tiger is an Endangered (EN) tiger subspecies. Three tiger subspecies are already extinct (see List of carnivorans by population).
Blue-throated macaw, an endangered species of bird AraGlaucogularisFull.jpg
Blue-throated macaw, an endangered species of bird
Brown spider monkey, an endangered species of mammal BrownSpiderMonkey (edit2).jpg
Brown spider monkey, an endangered species of mammal
Siamese crocodile, an endangered species of reptile Siamese Crocodiles.JPG
Siamese crocodile, an endangered species of reptile
American burying beetle, an endangered species of insect Nicrophorus americanus - Sankt-Peterburg.jpg
American burying beetle, an endangered species of insect
Kemp's ridley sea turtle, an endangered species of reptile Lepidochelys kempii.jpg
Kemp's ridley sea turtle, an endangered species of reptile
Mexican Wolf, the most endangered subspecies of the North American Grey Wolf. Approximately 143 are living wild. Mexican Wolf 2 yfb-edit 1.jpg
Mexican Wolf, the most endangered subspecies of the North American Grey Wolf. Approximately 143 are living wild.

Though labeled a list, the IUCN Red List is a system of assessing the global conservation status of species that includes "Data Deficient" (DD) species – species for which more data and assessment is required before their situation may be determined – as well species comprehensively assessed by the IUCN's species assessment process. [8] The species under the index include: mammals, birds, amphibians, cycades, and corals. Those species of "Near Threatened" (NT) and "Least Concern" (LC) status have been assessed and found to have relatively robust and healthy populations, though these may be in decline. Unlike their more general use elsewhere, the List uses the terms "endangered species" and "threatened species" with particular meanings: "Endangered" (EN) species lie between "Vulnerable" (VU) and "Critically Endangered" (CR) species. In 2012, the IUCN Red List listed 3,079 animal and 2,655 plant species as endangered (EN) worldwide. [8]

In the United States

There is data from the United States that shows a correlation between human populations and threatened and endangered species. Using species data from the Database on the Economics and Management of Endangered Species (DEMES) database and the period that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been in existence, 1970 to 1997, a table was created that suggests a positive relationship between human activity and species endangerment. [9]

A proportional symbol map of each state's endangered species count U.S. Endangered Species Count by State.gif
A proportional symbol map of each state's endangered species count

Endangered Species Act

"Endangered" in relation to "threatened" under the ESA Status ESA LE.svg
"Endangered" in relation to "threatened" under the ESA

Under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 in the United States, species may be listed as "endangered" or "threatened". The Salt Creek tiger beetle (Cicindela nevadica lincolniana) is an example of an endangered subspecies protected under the ESA. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as the National Marine Fisheries Service are held responsible for classifying and protecting endangered species. They are also responsible for adding a particular species to the list, which can be a long, controversial process. [10]

Some endangered species laws are controversial. Typical areas of controversy include criteria for placing a species on the endangered species list and rules for removing a species from the list once its population has recovered. Whether restrictions on land development constitute a "taking" of land by the government; the related question of whether private landowners should be compensated for the loss of uses of their areas; and obtaining reasonable exceptions to protection laws. Also lobbying from hunters and various industries like the petroleum industry, construction industry, and logging, has been an obstacle in establishing endangered species laws.

The Bush administration lifted a policy that required federal officials to consult a wildlife expert before taking actions that could damage endangered species. Under the Obama administration, this policy was reinstated. [11]

Being listed as an endangered species can have negative effect since it could make a species more desirable for collectors and poachers. [12] This effect is potentially reducible, such as in China where commercially farmed turtles may be reducing some of the pressure to poach endangered species. [13]

Another problem with the listing species is its effect of inciting the use of the "shoot, shovel, and shut-up" method of clearing endangered species from an area of land. Some landowners currently may perceive a diminution in value for their land after finding an endangered animal on it. They have allegedly opted to kill and bury the animals or destroy habitat silently. Thus removing the problem from their land, but at the same time further reducing the population of an endangered species. [14] The effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act  – which coined the term "endangered species" – has been questioned by business advocacy groups and their publications but is nevertheless widely recognized by wildlife scientists who work with the species as an effective recovery tool. Nineteen species have been delisted and recovered [15] and 93% of listed species in the northeastern United States have a recovering or stable population. [16]

Currently, 1,556 endangered species are under protection by government law. This approximation, however, does not take into consideration the species threatened with endangerment that are not included under the protection of laws like the Endangered Species Act. According to NatureServe's global conservation status, approximately thirteen percent of vertebrates (excluding marine fish), seventeen percent of vascular plants, and six to eighteen percent of fungi are considered imperiled. [17] :415 Thus, in total, between seven and eighteen percent of the United States' known animals, fungi and plants are near extinction. [17] :416 This total is substantially more than the number of species protected in the United States under the Endangered Species Act.

Bald eagle 2010-bald-eagle-kodiak.jpg
Bald eagle
American bison American bison k5680-1.jpg
American bison

Ever since mankind began hunting to preserve itself, over-hunting and fishing have been a large and dangerous problem. Of all the species who became extinct due to interference from mankind, the dodo, passenger pigeon, great auk, Tasmanian tiger and Steller's sea cow are some of the more well known examples; with the bald eagle, grizzly bear, American bison, Eastern timber wolf and sea turtle having been poached to near-extinction. Many began as food sources seen as necessary for survival but became the target of sport. However, due to major efforts to prevent extinction, the bald eagle, or Haliaeetus leucocephalus is now under the category of Least Concern on the red list. [18] A present-day example of the over-hunting of a species can be seen in the oceans as populations of certain whales have been greatly reduced. Large whales like the blue whale, bowhead whale, finback whale, gray whale, sperm whale, and humpback whale are some of the eight whales which are currently still included on the Endangered Species List. Actions have been taken to attempt a reduction in whaling and increase population sizes. The actions include prohibiting all whaling in United States waters, the formation of the CITES treaty which protects all whales, along with the formation of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). But even though all of these movements have been put in place, countries such as Japan continue to hunt and harvest whales under the claim of "scientific purposes". [19] Over-hunting, climatic change and habitat loss leads in landing species in endangered species list. It could mean that extinction rates could increase to a large extent in the future.

In Canada

Endangered species are addressed through Canada's Species at Risk Act. A species is deemed threatened or endangered when it is on the verge of extinction or extirpation. Once a species is deemed threatened or endangered, the Act requires that a recovery plan to be developed that indicates how to stop or reverse the species' population decline. [20] As of 2021, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife In Canada (COSEWIC) has assessed 369 species as being endangered in Canada.

In India

The World Wide Fund-India raises concern in the longevity of the following animal species: the Red Panda, the Bengal Tiger, the Ganges River Dolphin, the Asian Elephant. [21]

India signed the Wildlife Protection Act and the also joined the Convention on the International Trade in 1976, to prevent poaching from harming its wildlife. [22]

Invasive species

The introduction of non-indigenous species to an area can disrupt the ecosystem to such an extent that native species become endangered. Such introductions may be termed alien or invasive species. In some cases, the invasive species compete with the native species for food or prey on the natives. In other cases, a stable ecological balance may be upset by predation or other causes leading to unexpected species decline. New species may also carry diseases to which the native species have no exposure or resistance. [23]


The dhole, Asia's most endangered top predator, is on the edge of extinction. Dhole.jpg
The dhole, Asia's most endangered top predator, is on the edge of extinction.

Captive breeding

Captive breeding is the process of breeding rare or endangered species in human controlled environments with restricted settings, such as wildlife reserves, zoos, and other conservation facilities. Captive breeding is meant to save species from extinction and so stabilise the population of the species that it will not disappear. [24]

This technique has worked for many species for some time, with probably the oldest known such instances of captive mating being attributed to menageries of European and Asian rulers, an example being the Père David's deer. However, captive breeding techniques are usually difficult to implement for such highly mobile species as some migratory birds (e.g. cranes) and fishes (e.g. hilsa). Additionally, if the captive breeding population is too small, then inbreeding may occur due to a reduced gene pool and reduce resistance.

In 1981, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) created a Species Survival Plan (SSP) to help preserve specific endangered and threatened species through captive breeding. With over 450 SSP Plans, some endangered species are covered by the AZA with plans to cover population management goals and recommendations for breeding for a diverse and healthy population, created by Taxon Advisory Groups. These programs are commonly created as a last resort effort. SSP Programs regularly participate in species recovery, veterinary care for wildlife disease outbreaks, and some other wildlife conservation efforts. The AZA's Species Survival Plan also has breeding and transfer programs, both within and outside of AZA – certified zoos and aquariums. Some animals that are part of SSP programs are giant pandas, lowland gorillas, and California condors. [25]

Private farming

Black rhino Ostafrikanisches Spitzmaulnashorn.JPG
Black rhino
Southern bluefin tuna Thmac u0.gif
Southern bluefin tuna

Whereas poaching substantially reduces endangered animal populations, legal, for-profit, private farming does the opposite. It has substantially increased the populations of the southern black rhinoceros and southern white rhinoceros. Dr Richard Emslie, a scientific officer at the IUCN, said of such programs, "Effective law enforcement has become much easier now that the animals are largely privately owned... We have been able to bring local communities into conservation programs. There are increasingly strong economic incentives attached to looking after rhinos rather than simply poaching: from Eco-tourism or selling them on for a profit. So many owners are keeping them secure. The private sector has been key to helping our work." [26]

Conservation experts view the effect of China's turtle farming on the wild turtle populations of China and South-Eastern Asia  – many of which are endangered – as "poorly understood". [27] Although they commend the gradual replacement of turtles caught wild with farm-raised turtles in the marketplace – the percentage of farm-raised individuals in the "visible" trade grew from around 30% in 2000 to around 70% in 2007 [28]  – they worry that many wild animals are caught to provide farmers with breeding stock. The conservation expert Peter Paul van Dijk noted that turtle farmers often believe that animals caught wild are superior breeding stock. Turtle farmers may, therefore, seek and catch the last remaining wild specimens of some endangered turtle species. [28]

In 2015, researchers in Australia managed to coax southern bluefin tuna to breed in landlocked tanks, raising the possibility that fish farming may be able to save the species from overfishing. [29]

See also

IUCN Red List

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bongo (antelope)</span> Species of mammal

The bongo is a herbivorous, mostly nocturnal forest ungulate. Bongos are characterised by a striking reddish-brown coat, black and white markings, white-yellow stripes and long slightly spiralled horns. They are the only tragelaphid in which both sexes have horns. They have a complex social interaction and are found in African dense forest mosaics. Native to Africa, they are the third-largest antelope in the world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Endangered Species Act of 1973</span> United States law

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is the primary law in the United States for protecting imperiled species. Designed to protect critically imperiled species from extinction as a "consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation", the ESA was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 28, 1973. The Supreme Court of the United States described it as "the most comprehensive legislation for the preservation of endangered species enacted by any nation". The purposes of the ESA are two-fold: to prevent extinction and to recover species to the point where the law's protections are not needed. It therefore "protect[s] species and the ecosystems upon which they depend" through different mechanisms. For example, section 4 requires the agencies overseeing the Act to designate imperiled species as threatened or endangered. Section 9 prohibits unlawful ‘take,’ of such species, which means to "harass, harm, hunt..." Section 7 directs federal agencies to use their authorities to help conserve listed species. The Act also serves as the enacting legislation to carry out the provisions outlined in The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Supreme Court found that "the plain intent of Congress in enacting" the ESA "was to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost." The Act is administered by two federal agencies, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). FWS and NMFS have been delegated by the Act with the authority to promulgate any rules and guidelines within the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) to implement its provisions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Association of Zoos and Aquariums</span> North American nonprofit organization

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), originally the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums, is an American 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1924 and dedicated to the advancement of zoos and public aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. AZA is headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, and accredits zoos. There were 238 accredited facilities as of 2019, primarily in the US, and also a handful in eleven other countries.

Local extinction, also known as extirpation, refers to a species of plants or animals that ceases to exist in a chosen geographic area of study, though it still exists elsewhere. Local extinctions are contrasted with global extinctions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wildlife conservation</span> Practice of protecting wild plant and animal species and their habitats

Wildlife conservation refers to the practice of protecting wild species and their habitats in order to maintain healthy wildlife species or populations and to restore, protect or enhance natural ecosystems. Major threats to wildlife include habitat destruction, degradation, fragmentation, overexploitation, poaching, pollution and climate change. The IUCN estimates that 27,000 species of the ones assessed are at risk for extinction. Expanding to all existing species, a 2019 UN report on biodiversity put this estimate even higher at a million species. It is also being acknowledged that an increasing number of ecosystems on Earth containing endangered species are disappearing. To address these issues, there have been both national and international governmental efforts to preserve Earth's wildlife. Prominent conservation agreements include the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). There are also numerous nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) dedicated to conservation such as the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, the Wild Animal Health Fund and Conservation International.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Conservation status</span> Indication of the chance of a species extinction, regardless of authority used

The conservation status of a group of organisms indicates whether the group still exists and how likely the group is to become extinct in the near future. Many factors are taken into account when assessing conservation status: not simply the number of individuals remaining, but the overall increase or decrease in the population over time, breeding success rates, and known threats. Various systems of conservation status exist and are in use at international, multi-country, national and local levels as well as for consumer use.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dama gazelle</span> Species of mammal

The dama gazelle, also known as the addra gazelle or mhorr gazelle, is a species of gazelle. It lives in Africa, in the Sahara desert and the Sahel. A critically endangered species, it has disappeared from most of its former range due to overhunting and habitat loss, and natural populations only remain in Chad, Mali, and Niger. Its habitat includes grassland, shrubland, semi-deserts, open savanna and mountain plateaus. Its diet includes grasses, leaves, shoots, and fruit.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Functional extinction</span> End of viability for a population

Functional extinction is the extinction of a species or other taxon such that:

  1. It disappears from the fossil record, or historic reports of its existence cease;
  2. The reduced population no longer plays a significant role in ecosystem function; or
  3. The population is no longer viable. There are no individuals able to reproduce, or the small population of breeding individuals will not be able to sustain itself due to inbreeding depression and genetic drift, which leads to a loss of fitness.
<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chinese pangolin</span> Species of mammal

The Chinese pangolin is a pangolin native to the northern Indian subcontinent, northern parts of Southeast Asia and southern China. It has been listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2014, as the wild population is estimated to have declined by more than 80% in three pangolin generations, equal to 21 years. It is threatened by poaching for the illegal wildlife trade.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wildlife of Cambodia</span>

The wildlife of Cambodia is very diverse with at least 162 mammal species, 600 bird species, 176 reptile species, 900 freshwater fish species, 670 invertebrate species, and more than 3000 plant species. A single protected area, Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, is known to support more than 950 total species, including 75 species that are listed as globally threatened on the IUCN Red List. An unknown amount of species remains to be described by science, especially the insect group of butterflies and moths, collectively known as lepidopterans.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wildlife of Ethiopia</span>

The richness and variety of the wildlife of Ethiopia is dictated by the great diversity of terrain with wide variations in climate, soils, natural vegetation and settlement patterns. Ethiopia contains a vast highland complex of mountains and dissected plateaus divided by the Great Rift Valley, which runs generally southwest to northeast and is surrounded by lowlands, steppes, or semi-desert.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Painted terrapin</span> Species of turtle

The painted terrapin, painted batagur, or saw-jawed turtle is a species of turtles in the family Geoemydidae. It was formerly in its own genus, Callagur, but has been reclassified to the genus, Batagur.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Conservation-reliant species</span>

Conservation-reliant species are animal or plant species that require continuing species-specific wildlife management intervention such as predator control, habitat management and parasite control to survive, even when a self-sustainable recovery in population is achieved.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Angonoka tortoise</span> Species of tortoise

The angonoka tortoise is a critically endangered species of tortoise severely threatened by poaching for the illegal pet trade. It is endemic to Madagascar. It is also known as the angonoka, ploughshare tortoise, Madagascar tortoise, or Madagascar angulated tortoise. There may be less than 400 of these tortoises left in the wild. It is found only in the dry forests of the Baly Bay area of northwestern Madagascar, near the town of Soalala .A captive-breeding facility was established in 1986 by the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust in collaboration with the Water and Forests Department. In 1996, 75 tortoises were stolen, which later appeared for sale in the Netherlands. The project was ultimately successful, achieving 224 captive-bred juveniles out of 17 adults in 2004. Project Angonoka developed conservation plans that involved local communities making firebreaks, along with the creation of a park to protect the tortoise and the forests. Monitoring of the angonoka tortoise in the global pet trade has also continued to be advocated.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Turtle Conservancy</span>

The Turtle Conservancy (TC) is a 501(c)3 organization with a focus on protecting threatened turtles and tortoises and their habitats worldwide working toward improving turtle and tortoise populations in the wild. The TC is a conservation organization protecting tortoises and freshwater turtles with work in five areas: species conservation, protection of wild lands, research science, global awareness and education, and illegal trade prevention.

John L. Behler was an American naturalist, herpetologist, author, and activist known for his work in conserving endangered species of turtles, snakes, and other reptiles. He served as curator of herpetology at the Bronx Zoo, part of the Wildlife Conservation Society from 1976 to 2006. He co-chaired the IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, and was a founding member of the Turtle Survival Alliance, which co-present the Behler Turtle Conservation Award with the Turtle Conservancy and Turtle Conservation Fund. The Behler Turtle Conservation Award is a major annual award to honor leadership in the field of freshwater turtle and tortoise conservation. The Turtle Conservancy named its captive breeding center, the Behler Chelonian Center, in his honor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Conservation behavior</span>

Conservation behavior is the interdisciplinary field about how animal behavior can assist in the conservation of biodiversity. It encompasses proximate and ultimate causes of behavior and incorporates disciplines including genetics, physiology, behavioral ecology, and evolution.

An out-of-danger species is an animal or plant species formerly categorized as Rare, Vulnerable, or Endangered that has since been removed from these lists because the species' survival has been relatively secured, e.g. ginkgo biloba. Often known as a "delisted species," these animals have been moved out of the Rare, Vulnerable, or Endangered categories through conservation efforts and government policymaking to ensure their survival and population growth. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) established it's list of endangered species in 1964, subsequently becoming a global authority on wildlife conservation. The following year, the United States created the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to act as a federal authority on endangered species. Currently, both international and domestic organizations implement recovery efforts and track species' population growth, delisting when necessary. Removing a species from the endangered species list is generally a slow process; most organizations and governments require long periods of observation both before and after delisting. There have been numerous efforts to delist endangered species, with both international and country-wide recovery plans being regularly implemented. These programs have led to the recovery of dozens of species, but their overall effectiveness remains contested. In America, the ban of the chemical DDT in 1972 contributed to several bird species' recovery and removal from the endangered species list.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">White Oak Conservation</span> Wildlife and conservation center outside Yulee, Florida, US

White Oak Conservation, which is part of Walter Conservation, is a 17,000-acre (6,900 ha) conservation center in northeastern Florida. It has long been dedicated to the conservation and care of endangered and threatened species, including rhinoceros, okapi, bongo antelope, zebras, dama gazelles, and cheetahs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Endangered species (IUCN status)</span> Species which have been categorized as very likely to become extinct in the near future

Endangered species as classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), are species which have been categorized as very likely to become extinct in their known native ranges in the near future. On the IUCN Red List, endangered is the second most severe conservation status for wild populations in the IUCN's schema after critically endangered. In 2012, the IUCN Red List featured 3,079 animal and 2,655 plant species as endangered worldwide. The figures for 1998 were 1,102 and 1,197 respectively.


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Further reading