Endangered species

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Conservation status
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Lower Risk

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Comparison of Red list classes above
and NatureServe status below
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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.


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. Many 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. [2] The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is the best-known worldwide conservation status listing and ranking system. [3]

Over 50% of the world's species are estimated to be at risk of extinction. [4] 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 AraGlaucogularisFull.jpg
Blue-throated macaw, an endangered species
Brown spider monkey, an endangered species BrownSpiderMonkey (edit2).jpg
Brown spider monkey, an endangered species
Siamese crocodile, an endangered species Siamese Crocodiles.JPG
Siamese crocodile, an endangered species
American burying beetle, an endangered species Nicrophorus americanus - Sankt-Peterburg.jpg
American burying beetle, an endangered species
Kemp's ridley sea turtle, an endangered species Lepidochelys kempii.jpg
Kemp's ridley sea turtle, an endangered species
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. 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.

Endangered species 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. [6]

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. Also, they are also responsible for adding a particular species to the list can be a long, controversial process (Wilcove & Master, 2008, p. 414).

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 has been reinstated. [7]

Being listed as an endangered species can have negative effect since it could make a species more desirable for collectors and poachers. [8] This effect is potentially reducible, such as in China where commercially farmed turtles may be reducing some of the pressure to poach endangered species. [9]

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. [10] 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 [11] and 93% of listed species in the northeastern United States have a recovering or stable population. [12]

Currently, 1,556 known species in the world have been identified as near extinction or endangered and are under protection by government law. This approximation, however, does not take into consideration the number of species threatened with endangerment that are not included under the protection of such 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. [13] :415 Thus, in total, between seven and eighteen percent of the United States' known animals, fungi and plants are near extinction. [13] :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. [14] 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". [15] 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.

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 resistance. [16]


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. [17]

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. [18]

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." [19]

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". [20] 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 [21]  – 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. [21]

In 2009, 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. [22]

See also

IUCN Red List

Related Research Articles

Bongo (antelope)

The bongo is a herbivorous, mostly nocturnal forest ungulate.

Wildlife conservation

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's 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, and Conservation International.

Conservation status 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.

Dama gazelle

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. This critically endangered species 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.

Species Survival Plan

The American Species Survival Plan or SSP program was developed in 1981 by the (American) Association of Zoos and Aquariums to help ensure the survival of selected species in zoos and aquariums, most of which are threatened or endangered in the wild.

Long-tailed goral

The long-tailed goral or Amur goral is a species of ungulate of the family Bovidae found in the mountains of eastern and northern Asia, including Russia, China, and Korea. A population of this species exists in the Korean Demilitarized Zone, near the tracks of the Donghae Bukbu Line. The species is classified as endangered in South Korea, with an estimated population less than 250. It has been designated South Korean natural monument 217. In 2003, the species was reported as being present in Arunachal Pradesh, in northeast India.

Critically endangered IUCN conservation category

A critically endangered (CR) species is one that has been categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

Functional extinction 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.
Guam kingfisher Species of kingfisher from the United States Territory of Guam

The Guam kingfisher is a species of kingfisher from the United States Territory of Guam. It is restricted to a captive breeding program following its extinction in the wild due primarily to predation by the introduced brown tree snake.

Wildlife trade

Wildlife trade refers to the commerce of products that are derived from non-domesticated animals or plants usually extracted from their natural environment or raised under controlled conditions. It can involve the trade of living or dead individuals, tissues such as skins, bones or meat, or other products. Legal wildlife trade is regulated by the United Nations' Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which currently has 183 member countries called Parties. Illegal wildlife trade is widespread and constitutes one of the major illegal economic activities, comparable to the traffic of drugs and weapons. Wildlife trade is a serious conservation problem, has a negative effect on the viability of many wildlife populations and is one of the major threats to the survival of vertebrate species. The illegal wildlife trade has been linked to the emergence and spread of new infectious diseases in humans, including emergent viruses. Global initiative like the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 15 have a target to end the illegal supply of wildlife.

Chinese pangolin 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.

Wildlife of Cambodia Regional fauna in southeast Asia

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. Many of the species in the country, including several endemic ones, are recognized by the IUCN or World Conservation Union as threatened, endangered, or critically endangered due to deforestation and habitat destruction, poaching, the illegal wildlife trade, and farming, fishing, and forestry concessions. Intensive poaching may have already driven Cambodia's national animal, the kouprey, to extinction, wild tigers to extirpation, and Eld's deer, wild water buffaloes and hog deer are at critically low numbers.

Wildlife of Ethiopia

Ethiopia has a large variety of indigenous plant and animal species. In some areas, the mountains are covered with shrubs such as pyracantha, jasmine, poinsettia, and a varied assortment of evergreens. Caraway, carcade, cardamom, chat, coriander, incense, myrrh, and red pepper are common. The lakes in the Great Rift Valley region abound with numerous species of birds, and wild animals are found in every region. Among the latter are the cheetah, lion, civet, serval, African bush elephant, bushpig, gazelle, antelope, ibex, kudu, dik-dik, oribi, reedbuck, Somali wild ass, Grévy's zebra, hyena, baboon, and numerous species of monkey. As of 2002, there were at least 277 species of mammals, 262 species of birds, and over 6,600 species of plants throughout the country.

Painted terrapin

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.

Rodrigues flying fox Large species of bat native to the island of Rodrigues

The Rodrigues flying fox or Rodrigues fruit bat is a species of bat in the family Pteropodidae, the flying foxes or fruit bats. It is endemic to Rodrigues, an island in the Indian Ocean belonging to Mauritius. Its natural habitat is tropical lowland forests. The bats are sociable, roost in large groups during the day and feed at night, squeezing the juice and flesh out of fruits. They are hunted by humans for food and their numbers have been dwindling, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated the species as being "endangered". In an effort to preserve them from extinction, some bats have been caught and are being bred in various zoos around the world.

Conservation-reliant species

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.

Turtle Conservancy

The Turtle Conservancy (TC) is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to protecting threatened turtles and tortoises and their habitats worldwide.

Conservation behavior

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.

White Oak Conservation Wildlife and conservation center outside Yulee, Florida, US

White Oak Conservation, which is part of Walter Conservation, is a one-of-a-kind center for conservation. With 17,000 acres 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.

Endangered species (IUCN status)

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 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 (CR). In 2012, the IUCN Red List featured 3,079 animal and 2,655 plant species as endangered (EN) worldwide. The figures for 1998 were 1,102 and 1,197 respectively.


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  13. 1 2 Wilcove & Master 2008.
  14. "Haliaeetus leucocephalus (Bald Eagle)". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . Retrieved 2015-11-01.
  15. Freedman, Bill (2008). "Endangered species". Gale (4th ed.). 46 (44): 25. PMID   30399289.
  16. Chiras, Daniel D. (2011). "Invader Species". Grolier. Online.
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  19. He's black, and he's back! Private enterprise saves southern Africa's rhino from extinction, The Independent, June 17, 2008
  20. Shi, Haitao; Parham, James F.; Fan, Zhiyong; Hong, Meiling; Yin, Feng (2008-01-01). "Evidence for the massive scale of turtle farming in China". Oryx. 42. Cambridge University Press. pp. 147–150. doi:10.1017/S0030605308000562 . Retrieved 2009-12-26.
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  22. The Top 10 Everything of 2009: Top 10 Scientific Discoveries: 5. Breeding Tuna on Land, Time magazine, December 8, 2009.

Further reading