IUCN Red List: Categories, Critically Endangered Species in India

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The IUCN Red List India highlights the ongoing decline of Earth’s biodiversity as well as the impact humans have on life on the planet, specifically in India. It provides a globally recognized standard for measuring the conservation stature of species as they evolve. By 2019, the IUCN Red List categories and requirements had been employed to assess 96,500 species. More than 26,500 species of plants, animals, and other organisms are labeled as threatened (CR, EN, and VU).

The study of wildlife, biodiversity, and ecology is significantly influenced by endangered animals all around the world. It is a crucial component of UPSC GS 2. In the UPSC exam, questions about the IUCN red list categories of classification of critically endangered species, red data book, and the list of Indian species in the IUCN red data book have regularly been asked.

IUCN Red List India

IUCN Red List is the most comprehensive global inventory of plant and animal species conservation status. It assesses the extinction risk of numerous critically endangered species in India using a set of quantifiable metrics. It highlights the continuing decline of Earth’s biodiversity as well as the impact humans have on the planet’s biodiversity.

IUCN Red List India 2022 PDF

IUCN red list offers an internationally known standard for measuring the conservation estimation of species with time. Researchers can examine the proportion of species in a specified category and see how that ratio shifts over time; they can also investigate the dangers and conservation efforts that facilitate the identified patterns.

IUCN Categories for Endangered Species

The IUCN Red List categories describe the extinction rates of the species under evaluation. From Not Evaluated (NE) to Extinct (EX), nine categories are available. Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN), and Vulnerable (VU) species are those that are on the verge of extinction. The following table shows the different IUCN categories laid down by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature:

  • Extinct (EX): There are no known survivors.
  • Extinct in the wild (EW): Only believed to exist in captivity or as naturalized inhabitants beyond its historical range.
  • Critically endangered (CR): Species that face an unbelievably high extinction risk in the wild. Population decline for such species has been greater than 90% in the last ten years, the population size is fewer than 50 adult individuals, and quantitative analysis indicates a likelihood of extinction from the wild of at least 50% in the last ten years. Thus it is deemed to be approaching an extremely high likelihood of disappearing from the wild as per the IUCN red list data.
  • Endangered (EN): A species that faces extinction in the wild.
  • Vulnerable (VU): In the wild, there is a significant risk of becoming endangered.
  • Near Threatened (NT): A species on the verge of becoming endangered in the coming years.
  • Little concern (LC): These are at the lowest risk. These animals do not fall into a higher-risk category. This IUCN red list category includes taxa that are widespread and plentiful.
  • Data Deficient (DD): There is insufficient data to evaluate its extinction risk.
  • Not evaluated (NE): These species have not yet been assessed using the criteria.

The IUCN red list analyzes the extinction risk of critically endangered species in India using a series of five quantitative criteria. Overall, the following criteria are taken into account regarding IUCN categories:

  • The population decelerating rate.
  • The geographical scope.
  • If the species already has a small population size.
  • Whether or not the species is small or occupies a limited area.
  • Whether or not the findings of a quantitative analysis revealed a high likelihood of extinction in nature.

IUCN Red List Critically Endangered Species

Because of the reason that India is one of the world’s most densely populated countries, anthropogenic activities, and urban expansion are predictably prevalent. Due to this, the environmental biodiversity and the species residing in it are continuously under stress and closing in towards the extinction of critically endangered species in India. Following are some endangered animals in India as per the IUCN red list data that are under threat and urgently require protection.

Bengal Tiger:

According to the IUCN red list analysis, Bengal tigers represent approximately half of the world’s total tiger community, with India home to 70% of them. The species presently occupies only 7% of its original range, with fewer than 2,000 individuals remaining in the animal world. Human-wildlife conflict also plays a major consideration in the declining population of native animals in a populous country like India.

Snow Leopard:

Snow leopards, such as the Asiatic Lion, are usually in the habit of much greater ecosystems and rampaging across Asia’s high mountains. They are now only found in regions of Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, also including parts of the western and eastern Himalayas, having a population of around 500 species in India.

Nilgiri Tahr:

As per the IUCN red list India, only about 2,500-3,000 animals of this critically endangered mountain goat species continue to stay in the wild. Illegal poaching and loss of habitat have resulted in the Nilgiri tahr being confined to the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, spanning below 10% of their original range.

Indian Bison (Gaur):

The world’s largest and tallest member of the wild livestock family, the Indian bison is endemic to South and South-East Asia. It is gravely affected by wildlife poaching, receding habitats, and food shortages caused by grassland destruction. Sadly, based on the IUCN red list, the bison has ended up losing over 70% of its population in several parts of its range. The IUCN lists the gaur as a vulnerable species, and it is guarded under India’s Wild Life Protection Act of 1972.

One-horned Rhinoceros:

This critically endangered animal, also known as the Indian rhinoceros, is often found in the Indian region and the Himalayan foothills. For decades, one-horned rhinoceros were extensively hunted to obtain their horns, which supposedly have therapeutic qualities. This led to their killings in the form of agricultural pests. The IUCN red list placed them in the category of critically endangered species as the one-horned rhinoceros population was also significantly affected due to recurring floods that forced the rhinos to relocate to higher elevations and move outside the National Parks. This heightened the likelihood of human-wildlife conflict.

Asiatic Lion:

The Asiatic lion is 10-20% tinier than its African counterparts, having a bigger tail tuft and distinguishable belly fold. The Asiatic Lion, as the name implies, was once found from southwest Asia to the east of India. However, the species’ total population is now confined to Gir National Park and outlying neighborhoods in Gujarat. The Asiatic lion has been identified as an endangered species by the IUCN red list as of 2010. There are only between 500-650 of them left in the country.


The blackbuck, also known as the Indian antelope, is amongst India’s most critically endangered species because of extensive poaching, particularly in the imperial states of India. The blackbucks were approximately 80,000 in population by the year 1947. However, in fewer than 20 years, that figure dropped to 8000 in number.

Lion-tailed Macaque:

The lion-tailed macaque is a well-known endemic monkey species that dwell in the tiny and heavily fragmented rainforests of South India’s Western Ghats. It is distinguished by the silver/white mane that encircles its head. As per the IUCN red list data, the overall wild population of macaques is predicted to be roughly 4,000 individuals, and it is expected to shrink by even more than 20% within the next 25 years unless threats such as hunting, poaching, roadkill, and habitat deficit linger.

Kashmiri Red Stag:

For decades, the IUCN red list has classified the Kashmiri red stag as a critically endangered species. The Indian government has listed it as one of the leading 15 species of higher conservation priority. As an outcome, the species is already largely confined to the 141 square kilometers area of Dachigam National Park. The population of red stags was predicted to be about 5,000 in the late nineties, but it has since dropped to around 150 in 1970 and about 130 in 2015.

Resplendent Tree Frog:

The enigmatic resplendent tree frog species was found in 2010 at the pinnacle of the Western Ghats, and it has a remarkable orange tint as well as several large glands covering the surface of the body. The resplendent tree frog is so relatively uncommon that it is only to be observed in the Eravikulam National Park on the Anamudi summit in the state of Kerala.

IUCN Red List of Endangered Species in India

As per the latest data provided by the IUCN red list, the following are the critically endangered mammals, birds, reptiles, and fishes that need the utmost attention and steps towards their preservation in order to safeguard them from extinction.

Critically Endangered Mammals:

  • Andaman White-toothed Shrew
  • Nicobar White-tailed Shrew
  • Pygmy Hog
  • Kondana Rat
  • Large Rock Rat or Elvira Rat
  • Javan Rhinoceros
  • Jenkin’s Andaman Spiny Shrew
  • Namdapha Flying Squirrel
  • Sumatran Rhinoceros
  • Malabar Civet

IUCN Red List Critically Endangered Birds:

  • White-backed Vulture
  • Forest Owlet
  • Great Indian Bustard
  • Aythya Baeri
  • Bengal Florican
  • Red-headed Vulture
  • Spoon-billed Sandpiper
  • Sociable Lapwing
  • Jerdon’s Courser
  • Siberian Crane
  • Himalayan Quail
  • Pink-headed Duck
  • White-bellied Heron
  • Slender-billed Vulture
  • Indian Vulture

Critically Endangered Reptiles:

  • Sispara day gecko
  • Hawksbill Turtle
  • Bengal Roof Turtle
  • River Terrapin
  • Gharial

Critically Endangered Fishes:

  • Narrow-snout Sawfish
  • Ganges Shark
  • Knife-tooth Sawfish
  • Pondicherry Shark
  • Large-tooth Sawfish

Learn the difference between endangered species and extinct species here.

IUCN Red List 2022

According to the IUCN Red list 2022, more than 41,000 varied species of animals, birds, and other organisms are threatened and are on the verge of extinction. Even this data comprises 28% of all the assessed species in total.


The IUCN red list of endangered animals is an important segment of the General studies UPSC syllabus. In order to fully understand the IUCN lists, it is crucial to be in constant touch with current affairs and news in order to keep aware of the animals and other species that get added to the list. Candidates should also go through the UPSC study material daily for frequent practice.

IUCN Red List UPSC Question

Practicing the sample or previous year’s questions on the IUCN red list UPSC topic will help you to prepare for the competitive exams.

Question: The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) published ‘Red Data Book’ comprises of lists of:

  1. Endemic plant and animal species found in biodiversity hotspots.
  2. Plant and animal species that are endangered.
  3. Nature and natural resource conservation sites in various countries.

Which of the following statements is/are correct?

  1. 1 & 3
  2. 2 only
  3. 2 & 3
  4. 3 only

Answer: (B) 2 only.

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