THE ALPHABET SOUP OF CONSERVATION

A LESSON THAT DEFINES AND SIMPLIFIES CONSERVATION STATUSES

Conservation Statuses are the “codes” that tell us about the health of species and their habitats based upon the many threats that they face. They give us a glimpse into the stability of the Earth’s biodiversity. More than 28,000 species are threatened with extinction, including almost 70% of primate species. Conservation Status categories help us to understand how and why they are at risk. They also help us to understand that there is hope for most species if we all take action, even in small ways, and if we start today. 

WATCH

The study of conservation is filled with acronyms. From the organizations that make determinations about threats to species (IUCN-the International Union for Conservation of Nature), to those that regulate trade agreements (CITES-the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), to the many scientific teams that provide critical data (SSCs-Species Specialists Groups), to the Conservation Statuses assigned to each species, it is a veritable alphabet soup of wordplay and abbreviated shortcuts. 

This video endeavors to simplify and explain what IUCN designated conservation statuses mean in general and, especially, as they relate to nonhuman primates. In addition, it outlines the causes of the threats to their viability, and proposes that everyone be part of the solution before it’s too late.

WHO ARE THE "STARS" OF THE SHOW?

WHAT IS A CONSERVATION STATUS?

We hear words like ThreatenedVulnerable, and Endangered used all the time, but what do they mean? Many people confess that they don’t know. Understanding the meanings of the conservation status categories reveals the viability of species—if conditions continue as they are today, will certain species still exist in the wild in 10 years, in 25 years, or during the lifetimes of your grandchildren and their children?

The conservation status of a species indicates whether the species is likely to be endangered by the threat of extinction in the near future. These categories are determined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) after careful study of their populations, habitats, factors impacting both, and whether positive or negative change is on the horizon. When the viability of species and their habitats reach certain predefined thresholds of threat, conservation statuses change to reflect those threats. 

Critically Endangered Crested Black Macaque
When determining the conservation status of a species, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers existing populations, the state of their habitats, how current conditions and events impact the future of both, and what future agricultural, residential, or commercial plans exist for the region.
 

The IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species has assessed 120,000 species, with a goal of achieving 160,000 by the end of 2020. That is a small portion of the estimated 1.6 million species that have been identified and the estimated 8.7 million species that grace this planet.

They are divided into these categories:

THE NINE CONSERVATION STATUSES

Not Evaluated (NE): IUCN species specialists have not yet evaluated the species.

Data Deficient (DD): There are not enough data to assess the species’ risk of extinction.

Least Concern (LC): The species is widespread and abundant.

Near Threatened (NT): The species is likely to become endangered in the near future.

Vulnerable (VU): The species is at high risk of endangerment in the wild.

Endangered (EN): The species is at high risk of extinction in the wild.

Critically Endangered (CR): The species is at extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

Extinct in the Wild (EW): The species is known only to survive in captivity.

Extinct (EX): There are no known individuals remaining.

There is typically a span of about 50 years of no incidents of sightings of a species before that species is officially declared extinct.

Understanding the conservation status categories can help us all to consider how our everyday actions impact the future of species, even those that live many thousands of miles away. From the products that we purchase to whom we choose as our animal companions to raising our voices for legislative changes, we can all make a difference. Millions of people making small differences result in significant changes. And that’s really good news!

HOW MANY OF OUR FELLOW PRIMATES ARE AT RISK?

There are an estimated 704 primate species and sub-species in the world. 70% are threatened by extinction. 43% are Critically Endangered or Endangered, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s main authority on the conservation status of species.

WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR ALL WILDLIFE?

Nonhuman primates are considered to be an indicator species for the health of ecosystems. If we’re losing nonhuman primates, their habitats are in danger. If their habitats are in danger, so too is every creature who lives there.

HELPFUL RESOURCES

Primates in Peril, The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates 2018-2020 is published by the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group (PSG), International Primatological Society (IPS), Conservation International (CI), and Bristol Zoological Society (BZS) and can be viewed online. Click on the thumbnail to view the report.

LEARNING GOALS

HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

  • That conservation status categories are warnings about the likelihood of the extinction of a species
  • That human activity is responsible for habitat and species loss at rates never before visited upon the Earth
  • That human activity is the greatest threat to species
  • That what is done by humans can be undone and rectified by humans
  • That extinction is forever

OBJECTIVES

  • To fully grasp that extinction is a real possibility for thousands of species
  • To discover that our everyday choices can impact the futures of species and ecosystems that are thousands of miles away
  • To motivate you to consider your own impact on the world’s environment
  • To stir you to contemplate WHAT you can do and HOW you can participate in solutions

FOR TEACHERS

COMMON CORE STANDARDS, STEAM INTEGRATION, and STATE STANDARDS

This project supports many critical skills and standards across grade levels, including these common core standards:

Language Arts:
Reading: Informational Text 
Key Ideas and Details Standards
Integration and Knowledge of ideas

Writing:
Text Types and Purposes: Write informative explanatory text
Production and Distribution of writing
Research to Build and Present Knowledge

Science and Technical Subjects:
Key Ideas and Details
Craft and Structure
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

Lesson developed by Debra Curtin, 2020

Copyright © New England Primate Conservancy 2016-2022. You may freely view and use this lesson and videos for educational purposes. 
For questions or comments about NEPC Lesson and Activities, e-mail us at info@neprimateconservancy.org.