‘Red List’ Offers Updates on Endangered Species

ENVIRONMENT

There is good news and bad news from the world’s leading scientists who study endangered species. Such ups and downs are among the findings of the latest update to the Red List, a guide to the world’s rarest species maintained by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). (National Geographic News)

Use our resources to understand how the IUCN evaluates a species for the Red List.

No, this isn't a pushmi-pullyu! It's a pair of okapis at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida. (The animals, closely related to giraffes, are actually native to Central Africa.) Okapis are an endangered species, and their numbers are declining, according to the new "Red List" compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Photograph by Raul654, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

No, this isn’t a pushmi-pullyu! It’s a pair of okapis at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida. (The animals, closely related to giraffes, are actually native to Central Africa.) Okapis are an endangered species, and their numbers are declining, according to the new “Red List” compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Photograph by Raul654, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Discussion Ideas

  • The IUCN has strict guidelines for determining the status of endangered species. The organization has five categories of species at risk for population decline (not including species of “least concern” or extinct). Look at our chart, “Endangered Species: Categories and Criteria.” What category of species is the least vulnerable? What category is the most vulnerable?
    • “Near-threatened” species are likely to qualify for a threatened category in the future, but their populations are relatively healthy right now. Emperor penguins are near-threatened.
    • Species that are “extinct in the wild” only survive in captivity, such as zoos or research facilities. The Wyoming toad is considered extinct in the wild.
  • Read the introduction to our encyclopedic entry. Why do species become endangered? Give an example of each reason.
    • Species become endangered for two reasons: Loss of habitat and loss of genetic variation.
      • Loss of habitat: Development for housing, industry, and agriculture reduces the habitat of native organisms.
      • Loss of genetic variation: Overhunting and overfishing have reduced the populations of many animals. Reduced population means there are fewer breeding pairs. With fewer breeding pairs, genetic variation shrinks.

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