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Conservation Status

The conservation status of a species indicates the likelihood of that species becoming extinct. There are a number of different terms to classify endangered animals and plants.

“Sterling
Sterling Archer, Guadalupe Fur Seal


The U.S. Endangered Species Act specifies a conservation status of Endangered or Threatened for each species listed. More than 2,140 species are currently listed under the ESA, 1,750 of which are listed as endangered and 390 which are listed as threatened. Additional Conservation Status terms are defined under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), including proposed, depleted, and candidate.

The ESA conservation status terms are defined as follows:

An Endangered species is one that "is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range."

A Threatened species is one that "is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future."

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines the following conservation status terms to classify species on the Red List:

  • Least concern: Lowest risk. Does not qualify for a higher risk category. Widespread and abundant taxa are included in this category.
  • Near threatened: Likely to become endangered in the near future.
  • Vulnerable: High risk of endangerment in the wild.
  • Endangered: High risk of extinction in the wild.
  • Critically endangered: Extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
  • Extinct in the wild: Known only to survive in captivity, or as a naturalized population outside its historic range.
  • Extinct: No known individuals remaining.

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