What does ‘Endangered’ mean?

An endangered species is an animal or plant that’s considered at risk of extinction.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the world’s most inclusive source of the global conservation status of species. IUCN Red List sets criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of species. It provides information about range, population size, habitat and ecology, use and/or trade, threats, and conservation actions that will help inform necessary conservation decisions. The list has seven levels:

• Extinct (EX) – No known individuals remaining
• Extinct in the wild (EW) – Known only to survive in captivity, or as a naturalized population outside its historic range
• Critically endangered (CR) – Extremely high risk of extinction in the wild
• Endangered (EN) – High risk of extinction in the wild
• Vulnerable (VU) – High risk of endangerment in the wild
• Near threatened (NT) – Likely to become endangered in the near future
• Least concern (LC) – Lowest risk (Does not qualify for a more at-risk category; widespread and abundant taxa are included in this category.)
• Data deficient (DD) – Not enough data to make an assessment of its risk of extinction
• Not evaluated (NE) – Has not yet been evaluated against the criteria

The two main reasons causing species to become endangered are loss of habitat and genetic variation. Reasons for this can include:
• The irreversible conversion of natural vegetation for infrastructure development, urban expansion, crop cultivation, timber plantations and mines.
• Habitat fragmentation
• Harvesting and poaching of various species
• Invasive species out-competing indigenous species.
• Demographic factors such as small population size, poor breeding success, and skewed male-female ratios.
• Pollution
• Natural disasters including threats such as droughts and floods.
• Climate change, but note that the potential impact of climate change on different species is not well understood and not easy to predict.

Did you know that CTEET established the Nature Care Fund in 2007 in order to facilitate the management of conservation projects and protection of endangered species in Cape Town. Currently the Nature Care Fund supports and facilitates conservation efforts for 10 conservation areas and projects, read more about these projects here: http://cteet.co.za/nature-care-fund/.

Sources and further reading: