Each year the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Species Programme receives hundreds of emails from people around the world seeking more information about the IUCN Red List. IUCN is delighted with the level of interest that the Red List generates. We are particularly pleased to see the broad spectrum of users of the Red List web site and the wide variety of questions being asked.
In response to this tide of interest, the IUCN Species Programme has compiled the following list of "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQs) and their answers, which it hopes will help broaden knowledge of issues such as how the Red List is compiled, and what information is available from the Red List.
To help users find the answers they are looking for more easily, we have listed the questions here, divided into broad topics. Just click on the question and it will take you to the answer.
How to use the IUCN Red List website:
About the IUCN Red List and the process behind it:
Using IUCN Red List data:
Contributing to the IUCN Red List:
Conservation and helping threatened species:
A. The IUCN Red List contains over 75,000 assessments of species, subspecies, varieties and subpopulations covering a variety of taxa. You can see the full list by clicking on OTHER SEARCH OPTIONS, clicking on "clear all criteria" to make sure that there are no search terms stored from previous searches you may have already tried, then clicking on "run search". To search for groups of species (for example "birds" or "frogs"), or a particular species, type the common name, or scientific name into the text box displaying the text "Enter Red List Search Term(s)", then click on GO. To refine your search further (e.g., to search for species in a particular region or country, or species in a particular Red List category or range of categories), use the OTHER SEARCH OPTIONS section. Further details on how to carry out more detailed searches can be found in the document The Users’ Guide to the IUCN Red List web site. Version 1.0 (March 2009) (PDF document, 2.47 MB).
A. The IUCN Red List has detailed search tools that allow increased flexibility in the searches that can be carried out. In the top bar of each page on the website, you will see the "other search options" button (next to the search box). Clicking this brings up a search box with several tabs, which you can use to search by various parameters such as country or threats. In addition the site allows you to store searches for future use or to share search results with others - for this you will need to create a username and password, but this is functionality is freely available to all. In order to help users to navigate their way through the wide range of functions on the web site, a set of instructions have been developed: The Users’ Guide to the IUCN Red List web site. Version 1.0 (March 2009) (PDF document, 2.47 MB). The document contains several sections, providing guidance on how to search the web site, how to navigate through the species fact sheets, how to save searches and export data from the site, and where to find and download GIS data. Use the index to quickly find the section you want (just click on the topic in the index). A video tutorial on how to search the IUCN Red List web site is also available.
A. You will find a range of summary tables in the Summary Statistics section on the web site. These provide figures, based on the current version of the Red List, for numbers of threatened species by major taxonomic groups, threatened species per country, and give a list of species that have changed status because of genuine deteriorations or improvements.
A. IUCN currently does not maintain a photo library. However photos are sometimes provided by assessors and these are gradually being collected and stored along with the Red List assessment data. Not all species on the Red List have photos attached to them, but where these are available (and with permission from the photographers) they will appear in the species account page on the web site.
Within all species accounts on the Red List website there is also a section called Images and External Links which provides links to the online photo library ARKive, and links to various image search engines.
The photo gallery pages also show a selection of species from each Red List update. Click on Photos in the top header for a gallery of photos illustrating some of the species that were added to the Red List for all updates since 2000, or select a specific year from the drop down menu under Photos.
We are currently trying to increase the proportion of species which have photos available - if you have one or more photos you would be willing to contribute, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A. The IUCN Red List version 2014.2 included over 75,000 accounts of species, subspecies, varieties and subpopulations. With each species account showing background documentation, it would be impractical to attempt to publish the IUCN Red List as a printed book; it would run to several large volumes, would be too expensive, and it would be impossible to update and publish the list each year. Analyses of the The IUCN Red List data are published periodically. The most recent of these was an analysis of the 2008 Red List data - see Wildlife in a Changing World.
A. If you receive the message: Results 1 to 0 of 0, check the Current Search box on the right hand side of the search results page to make sure that the information you have searched for is correct (e.g., there are no spelling errors in the search term you used). If you are searching for a species using a common name that you may be familiar with, it may not be a name that is widely used and may not be recorded for that species in the Red List. If this is the case, it is best to try and find the correct scientific name (see the Nomenclature section in the Information Sources and Quality page for advice on the taxonomic resources used on the Red List).
If all of your search criteria are correct and you still receive no results, this means that the species you are looking for is not yet recorded in the Red List. Although the IUCN Red List is the world's most comprehensive list of species threatened with extinction, it is still far from being complete. Some groups have been completely assessed (e.g., mammals, birds, amphibians), however most taxonomic groups have not, therefore the species you are looking for may be one that has not yet been assessed under the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria (i.e., it is Not Evaluated). If the species you are looking for is a plant, it may have been assessed for the 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants, which used the older pre-criteria Red List assessment system and therefore it does not appear in the current Red List. For plants, it is best to check both the online Red List and the 1997 plants Red List publication.
Also, please keep in mind that the only species assessed for inclusion on the Red List are wild species within their native range; domesticated species and subspecies are not usually assessed. The vast majority of plants listed in the 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants have not yet been evaluated against the revised Red List Criteria and are therefore not included here.
The species you are looking for may not have a global assessment yet, but it may have been assessed at the regional or national level. You can try searching for it on the National Red Lists web site, or you can check the Initiatives section on the Red List web site to check for assessments carried out through IUCN's regional projects.
A. Unless otherwise stated, all assessments on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species have been completed using a system of categories and criteria adopted by the IUCN Council in February 2000, and published in 2001. The 2001 IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria version 3.1 are a revised version of the 1994 IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria version 2.3, and were developed to make the assessment process more objective and easier to apply consistently to a wide range of species, including fisheries species, long-lived species and some invertebrates with a very narrow distribution. Copies of the 2001 IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria are available in English, French or Spanish from the Categories & Criteria section on the web site.
A. Although the list is officially named the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, it does include species that are currently not threatened. There are nine Red List categories of threat (see the Introduction section). The Least Concern (LC) category is used to highlight species that have a relatively low extinction risk compared with those taxa that are assessed as threatened or Near Threatened. This usually includes widespread and abundant taxa, but can also include taxa that have a restriced range but have no current or potential threats, or for very widespread and currently abundant taxa that are very slowly declining.
By including Least Concern species in the Red List, a more complete picture of the overall status of the taxonomic group is given. For example, in 2009, 21% of all described mammals were threatened; this is known only because all described mammals had been assessed for the Red List in 2009 and this made it possible to compare all threatened against all non-threatened mammal species.
A. The IUCN Red List is updated at least once each year and a new version number is allocated to each update. For example, the July 2014 update is version 2014.2. In each update, some taxa will be assessed for the first time, and some taxa which have previously been assessed will be reassessed. In general, we aim for taxa to be reassessed every 5-10 years (or sooner if the situation for the taxon is rapidly changing) though this is dependent upon funding.
A. There are two main reasons why a species may appear to be assigned to different categories in different sources – 1) the geographic scale of the assessment, or 2) referring to an out of date assessment.
Assessments on the IUCN Red List are of extinction risk at the global scale, but Red List assessments are also carried out at national and regional scales (see www.nationalredlist.org). Most national or regional Red Lists are not coordinated by IUCN. Sometimes these national/regional Red Lists follow the Guidelines for Application of IUCN Red List Criteria at Regional and National Levels, and sometimes they are based on an independent or modified system. Regardless of the system used, the category assigned to a species may differ between a global assessment and a national/regional assessment – for example, a species which is highly threatened in most of its range but well protected in a certain country may not be assessed as threatened in that country despite being assessed as threatened on the global IUCN Red List. Alternatively, a species may be stable throughout most of its range, but nationally declining due to localized threats – this species may be listed as threatened in a national/regional Red List, despite being listed as Least Concern globally. Even if the species in question is only found in one country, its assessment on that country’s Red List may differ to its global assessment if the country in question does not follow the IUCN assessment methodology. Some regional assessment projects, such as the European and Mediterranean Red Lists, are coordinated by IUCN and so can be found on the IUCN Red List website – to find these assessments, please visit the relevant project’s page under the Initiatives section of the website, or tick “Regional assessments” in the “Other search options” tool.
Alternatively, a category quoted elsewhere may not be the most up-to-date assessment of that species. In general, we recommend that species are reassessed at least every five to ten years, and the category may change when a species is reassessed – either for genuine reasons (a change in its conservation status) or non-genuine reasons (such as new information, or a mistake in the old assessment). We are not responsible for keeping external sources which use IUCN Red List data up to date. The IUCN Red List website will always display the most recent category and assessment.
A. Neither being listed on the IUCN Red List, nor being assessed as threatened (VU, EN, CR) or Near Threatened (NT), confers any legal protection on a species (please note that the IUCN Red List also contains Least Concern and Data Deficient species, as discussed above). Factors other than the extinction risk of a species need to be taken into account in setting conservation priorities and writing legislation. We would hope however that governments do consider the extinction risk of species in legislation, and consider providing legal protection to prevent the deterioration of species' conservation statuses as they see fit.
A. Each map is available to download as a shapefile. In the top right corner of the map viewer, when any taxon's map is displayed, you will see a "Download Spatial Data" link. Clicking this will take you to an export data request form, which you must fill in before being given access to the shapefile. Depending on your answers to the form's questions, you may be given immediate access to a downloadable copy of the map, or your request may need to be approved manually.
In the Resources section of the website there is also a Spatial Data Download page. Here you can download zip files of datasets for each of the comprehensively assessed groups, including mammals, amphibians, some marine fish families, and various other groups. To obtain the shapefiles for the bird maps, you need to contact the IUCN Red List bird authority, BirdLife International.
Please note that all of the map downloads are in shapefile format; to open or view the files you will need GIS software such as ArcGIS or QGIS.
Wherever you use a Red List map, please use the citation found at the bottom of the information panel at the right of the map (as displayed in the map browser). The citation information for each map can also be found in the Citation field of the attribute data which accompanies each shapefile.
Please also see “When can I use IUCN Red List information?” below.
A. You are free to use data from the assessment pages of the IUCN Red List website for non-commercial purposes (e.g., school/college/university projects); please refer to the data source using the citation given at the bottom of each assessment page. For example, to cite the assessment for the Long-beaked Echidna after viewing the web site on 6th November 2014, you would use the citation Leary et al. 2008 (full reference: Leary, T., Seri, L., Flannery, T., Wright, D., Hamilton, S., Helgen, K., Singadan, R., Menzies, J., Allison, A., James, R., Aplin, K., Salas, L. & Dickman, C. 2008. Zaglossus bruijnii. In: IUCN 2014. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 6 November 2014.
If you use general information from the IUCN Red List web site, use IUCN as the citation. For example, using general information displayed on the web site on 6th November 2014, you should use the following citation: IUCN 2014. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 6 November 2014.
If you wish to use Red List information for commercial purposes (i.e., you will profit financially from this use), you will need to contact IUCN at email@example.com.
If you wish to use any of the photographs displayed on the IUCN Red List web site for any purpose, you must contact the photographer or copyright owner of the photo; their names and contact email addresses are given alongside the photographs.
A. If you have information that you would like to add to a species account (e.g., you have seen and photographed a European Copper Skink in woodland in eastern Hungary, but our range map only covers mid-north Hungary), please send us the information and we will forward it on to the relevant experts for confirmation. If your information is found to be correct, it will be used in the next assessment of the species.
If you spot an error on the web site, please use the Feedback form to inform us of this.
If you have a photo you would like to contribute for us to use on the IUCN Red List website (particularly if we do not yet have a photo of that species), we would be grateful for permission to use it. Please contact us as firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange the necessary details.
A. The Training section of the Red List website has lots of details about training to be a Red List assessor. We have recently developed an interactive online training course designed to guide you through the the IUCN Red List assessment process and how to compile a scientifically rigorous IUCN Red List assessment. This training course is freely available to all, and is offered in English, French and Spanish. The course is hosted by The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Training site, which also hosts many other courses on a variety of topics such as GIS and REDD+.
It is also possible to arrange for IUCN Red List training workshops, facilitated by certified trainers. These are usually run as a 3-4 day course for up to 30 participants, and are generally associated with a specific project – there is no calendar of training workshops available for the general public. If you are interested in arranging a training workshop, please contact us at email@example.com.
A. Please click on the green “Donate Now” button at the right of the top bar, visible from any page on the Red List website, or go directly to the donate page. You can also visit our Red List at 50 campaign website for more details about our goals and how your donation will help us reach them.
A. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species was created to assess and monitor species at a global level and to highlight their risk of extinction, therefore promoting their conservation. For this reason, the IUCN Red List has been adopted by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to monitor the worlds’ progress in reducing biodiversity loss by 2010 and beyond. Our contribution toward species protection is therefore to highlight those species that are in need of conservation attention.
The IUCN Species Survival Commission has a network of Specialist Groups with over 7,000 experts working in the field, in government advisory bodies, in academia, etc. to conserve species.
There are many hundreds of organizations working throughout the world to protect species and gather data to better inform conservation policies at local, national and international levels. Many of these organizations are members of IUCN and they use the information IUCN provides through the Red List and through the work of other IUCN programmes and Commissions to inform their work and research.
If you look on a species assessment, you can also see (in the Conservation Actions section) the actions currently in place to protect the species and its environment, and any international, national or regional legislation or agreements that the species is listed under (e.g., CITES), or any educational awareness programmes in place to highlight the species.
A. Since the threats affecting many of the species listed on the IUCN Red List are caused by humans, changing human behaviour can also remove or lessen these threats and help species to recover. Conservation actions do work, but in order to be successful there must be cooperation among a wide range of sectors, including conservation scientists, governments, and local authorities and residents. Scientific research is one of the most fundamental actions in species conservation; for conservation measures to be most effective, the causes of decline and the ability of a species to recover must be fully understood. Once this has been established, recommendations can be put forward and the appropriate conservation measures implemented.
However, each and every one of us can take action in the fight to preserve species; even small steps, when taken by many people, can make a huge difference. There are many organizations that offer suggestions of what to do to protect the environment and help save species. Some of these can be found under the “General” and the “Conservation and related organizations” sections on our links page, by searching online (try “what can I do to protect the environment” or “how can I help save species”), or by visiting one of the following websites for ideas on what you can do to protect the environment and help to reverse biodiversity loss: