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. Just click on the question and it will take you to the answer:
A. The IUCN Red List website was developed for W3C standards compliant web browsers, and therefore may not display properly on browsers (e.g., some versions of Internet Explorer) that are not standards compliant. The web site is best viewed through Mozilla Firefox; Google Chrome; or, for Mac users, Apple Safari. All of these are free to download. Installing these web browsers will not affect the functionality of Internet Explorer on your computer; you can have many internet browsers installed on one computer and switch between browsers for different web sites if you wish.
A. In October 2008, the IUCN Red List web site was given a brand new look. The new site has more functionality than ever before. This also means that the site has more detailed search pages that allow increased flexibility in the searches that can be carried out, introduces the ability to store searches for future use or to share search results with others, and allows users to download range data for some taxonomic groups.
In order to help users to navigate their way through the wider 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. The IUCN Red List contains over 49,000 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).
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. 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 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.
A. Shape-files are available to download for all of the mammals and amphibians.
To download: Under Technical Documents, click on "Spatial Data Download" and click on the shape-files you want to download.
To obtain the shape-files for the bird maps, you need to contact the IUCN Red List bird authority, BirdLife International.
If you wish to use the maps as you see them on the website, you can save the map as an image by right-clicking on the map and selecting save image as. Please use the citation found at the bottom of the assessment page to cite the map.
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 11th March 2010, 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 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.1. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 11 March 2010.
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 11th March 2010, you should use the following citation: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.1. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 11 March 2010.
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. 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. 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 March 2010 update is version 2010.1.
A. The IUCN Red List version 2010.1 included over 49,000 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 Red List data are published every four years. For the analysis of the 2008 Red List data, see Wildlife in a Changing World.
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.
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 Measures 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: