More About Endangered Species

Move your cursor over the “Status” box to learn how the particular animal is classified according to the Endangered Species Act, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Read more about these classifications by reading the text below the graphic. You can also learn a “Fun Fact” about each animal by moving your cursor over that box.


What is an Endangered Species?

In the broad sense of the term, an endangered species is seriously threatened with extinction. But there are legal and technical definitions.

The United States passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973. Its purpose is “to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.” The ESA lists species as either “endangered” or “threatened.” An endangered species “means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range,” and a threatened species “means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.”[1]

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) works to protect and conserve nature.[2] As part of their mission, they maintain a “Red List of Threatened Species” (known simply as the “Red List”), which provides “comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species.” The classification schema identifies the risk of a species’ extinction.[3]

Extinct Species are classified as:

  • Extinct (EX): No known individuals exist in the wild or in captivity.
  • Extinct in the Wild (EW): Known individuals exist only in captivity or as “naturalized populations” outside their historic range.

Threatened Species are all classified as having a “high risk of extinction in the wild.”

  • Critically Endangered (CR): Highest risk
  •  Endangered (EN): Next Highest risk
  • Vulnerable (VU): Lowest level of risk

Lower Risk of Extinction:

  • Near Threatened (NT): Likely to qualify as “threatened” in the near future.
  • Least Concern (LC): “Widespread” and “abundant” populations

CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international trade agreement that regulates the sale of animals and plants to ensure their survival. Species are listed in Appendices I, II, or III. It is important to note that species can be listed on more than one appendix at a time (populations in different geographical regions face a higher or lower threat of extinction) and may be moved between lists depending on the threat.[4]

  • Appendix I: Species listed in Appendix I are the most endangered. In most cases, commercial trade in these species or their parts is prohibited. In some cases, export quotas are permitted, which allows for a limited number of live exports and/or hunting permits provided they meet strict criteria.
  • Appendix II: Species listed in this appendix are in danger of extinction if trade is not tightly regulated. Normally, commercial trade requires documentation to demonstrate that “certain conditions are met” and that the commercial activity will not adversely affect the population in the wild.
  • Appendix III: Species are listed in this appendix at the request of a third party. Typically, the species in question are already regulated, but the third party “needs the cooperation of other countries to prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation.”


[1] For more information about the ESA and its history visit:

[2] For more information about IUCN’s mission visit:

[3] Visit this site for an in-depth explanation of IUCN’s categories and criteria:

[4] Information about the appendices was taken from: