The conservation status of a species is an indicator of the likelihood of that species remaining extant either in the present day or the near future. Many factors are taken into account when assessing the conservation status of a species, not simply the number remaining, but the overall increase or decrease in the population over time, breeding success rates, known threats, and so on.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) is the world's main authority on the conservation status of species and is the best-known worldwide conservation status listing and ranking system. They produce the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (also known as the IUCN Red List or Red Data List). It was created in 1963 and is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species.
The IUCN Red List identifies the precise criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies. These criteria are relevant to all species and all regions of the world. The aim is to convey the urgency of conservation issues to the public and policy makers, as well as help the international community to try to reduce species extinction. It is widely considered to be the most objective and authoritative system for classifying species in terms of the risk of extinction. They aim to have the category of every species re-evaluated every 5 years if possible, or at least every ten years.
In 2007, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) released the 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the latest update to their online database of species' extinction risks.
There are three primary groups of risk, Extinct, Threatened and Least Concern, and this is split into risk categories, where over time the number of categories have increased to in 2007 where there are 9 categories in use. They are:
Seven of these categories are represented by using graphics to show the status of the species, which makes it easier for all around the world to understand. The following table contains the graphics for the latest version 3.1 set of symbols, and we have decided to use this set of symbols amongst our wildlife pages when relevant.
|Least Concern (LC or LR/lc), lowest risk. Does not qualify for a more at risk category. Widespread and abundant taxa are included in this category.|
|Near Threatened (NT or LR/nt), is close to qualifying for or is likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future.|
|Vulnerable (VU), considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild|
|Endangered (EN), considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.|
|Critically Endangered (CR), facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.|
|Extinct in the Wild (EW), known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalized population (or populations) well outside the past range.|
|Extinct (EX), there is no reasonable doubt that the last individual has died.|
|Data Deficient (DD), inadequate information to make a direct, or indirect, assessment of its risk of extinction.|