'Threatened' is the term used for species that are in the Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable categories (list is below). The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)  publishes a Red List of Threatened Species every four years, and 2014 was its 50th year.

The IUCN is a group of organisations and scientific experts that work for the protection of sustainable (able to be maintained) living resources. It is considered to be the best authority about the status of living things on the planet.

Found only in Sumatran rainforest, the Critically Endangered Sumatran tiger. ©Getty Images

Found only in Sumatran rainforest, the Critically Endangered Sumatran tiger. ©Getty Images

The IUCN maintains a watch on species (a group of one kind of animal or plant) and ecosystems throughout the world. An ecosystem is a group of living things all interacting together and depending on each other: for example, if a forest disappears then all the plants, mammals, birds, insects, reptiles and perhaps even fish are affected in some way because their shelter, food, protection, nests etc have gone.  This is called biodiversity.

The IUCN plans conservation action and encourages conservation by governments and other organisations. It provides help and advice necessary for conservation action. 

Teams monitor all species and classify them into different categories.

The IUCN categories for threatened species are:


The species has definitely not been seen in the wild in the past 50 years.

Example: thylacine

Extinct in the wild

The species only exists in captivity and no longer in the wild.

Example: scimitar-horned oryx, Micronesian kingfisher

Critically Endangered

The species is facing an extremely high risk of becoming extinct very soon.

Example: Mountain gorilla, orangutan


The species is in danger of becoming extinct. 

This includes species that may be extinct but have been seen in the wild less than 50 years ago.

Example: peregrine falcon


The species is likely to move into the Endangered category soon if conditions do not change.

Example: hippopotamus, Galapagos marine iguana

Near Threatened

Species whose numbers are dropping and is close to becoming Vulnerable or Endangered

Example: European otter, buzzing frog

Least Concern

A species that is not Vulnerable or Endangered, but is commonly found

Example: emerald-chinned hummingbird

Data Deficient

There is not enough information at this time to know which category to list the species.

Example:  walrus

Commercially Threatened

A species with good numbers at the moment, but which are being killed in large numbers for commercial reasons. The species will become Endangered unless the killing can be controlled.

Example:  leopard ray

According to the 2014 Red List:

  • 25% of mammals are threatened (that is 1 out of every 4);
  • 41% of amphibians are threatened;
  • 33% of reef-building corals are threatened, many rapidly moving into Critically Endangered or Endangered categories;
  • 13% of birds are threatened;
  • 63% of cycads are threatened... plants so old that they fed dinosaurs;
  • 34% of conifers (trees that bear cones).
Some reef-building corals are Critically Endangered.

Some reef-building corals are Critically Endangered.

The Red List also records successes. For example, the Arabian oryx was Critically Endangered, possibly extinct in the wild, but  has been moved to Vulnerable.

Read more about threatened  species here:

Read kidcyber pages about some threatened species:

Some species of: