I found out I was critically endangered.

Hello friends. This is Rima here. Yes, my username is lewhiteantelope. I use that username for all my social media, because I found out some years ago that in Arabic, my name means ‘white antelope’ (Do I need to reference this?)

So I got really curious. Is ‘white antelope’ an actual animal? I googled and bam. My life changed. I am actually an animal (and also an American musician). Well, apparently, I am more commonly known as the addax (no, not the Spanish motorsport team). I looked more into myself (my animal self) and I found out that I was critically endangered!

Addax. Credit: Chicago Zoological Society.

This got me thinking. Who decides if a species is endangered? Does it matter to people?

Red List
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has a Red List of Threatened Species, which according to their website, “is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species. It uses a set of criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies.”

IUCN Red List Logo

When the IUCN started labelling endangered species in the 60s, there were groups of biologists that were worried that the categorisation of species can be quite subjective. So the IUCN developed their categorisation further and adopted the Red List Catergories and Criteria, which is a more objective method of classification.

There are nine categories in this Red List, shown as such. (If you are interested to know more about the Red List, you can visit their website: http://www.iucnredlist.org)

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IUCN Red List: Structure of Categories

Uses and Limitations
The Red List has been helpful in many conservation strategies. As it holds information regarding the conservation status of different species, it influences the actions by governmental and non-governmental organisations alike.

As great as the Red List sounds, it has its limitations. Notice that there are two categories called “Data Deficient” and “Not Evaluated”. This means that there are many other species that have yet to be assessed. Does it mean that we do not have to bother as to whether they are the least of our concerns or are the on the brink of extinction? Of course not. We just do not have the caliber and the money to study all the species there are on this planet.

Public’s Perception: Is there a difference?
Song and Schuldt (2016) studied how perceptions of extinction risk differ according to the way the conservation messages are communicated. The study suggests that the different criteria changed the public’s perception on how much of a risk species are, according to their categorisation. Even though experts may find the categorisation (at least for the threatened categories which were the focus of the study) not of any discernible distinction, the public perceives some difference. This perception may be further fuelled by emotionally charged messages.

This only goes to show that for us communicators, the way we phrase or package (to be more technical, frame) our message does affect how our audience will then interpret our message.

In any case, please save me (the animal me) and my other friends who are critically endangered. Support organisations like the IUCN Red List or World Wildlife Fund (WWF: https://www.worldwildlife.org/) in their endeavours of conserving wildlife.
 (This is in no way a paid endorsement of the above mentioned organisations. I do wish though.)

  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Addax nasomaculatus.
  • IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. Version 3.1 Second Edition.
  • Rodrigues, A. S. L., Pilgrim, J. D., Lamoreux, J. F., Hoffmann, M., and Brooks, T. M. (2006) The value of the IUCN Red List for conservation. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 21, 71-76.
  • Song, H., & Schuldt, J. P. (2016). Communicating Conservation Status: How Different Statistical Assessment Criteria Affect Perceptions of Extinction Risk. Risk Analysis. doi:10.1111/risa.12714

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