International Union for Conservation of Nature


The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was founded in 1948 as the International Union for the Protection of Nature.  The name was changed in 1956.

IUCN describes its vision as being for a just world that values and conserves nature.  To that end the organisation “works to to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable”.  It works in three key areas; biodiversity conservation, the governance of the use of nature (the political economy of nature), and the deployment of nature-based solutions to global challenges in climate, food and development.

The IUCN works on hundreds of projects, initiatives and activities around the world, all framed by its “Global Programme”, developed with and approved by IUCN Member organisations every four years at the IUCN World Conservation Congress.  The next Congress is due to be held in 2016.

The IUCN Programme, with clear objectives and areas of activity, is coordinated by IUCN’s Secretariat and delivered in conjunction with IUCN member organisations and Commissions.  There are  more than one thousand of these member organisations including more than 80 States, more than 110 government agencies, and more than 800 non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Members meet every four years at the IUCN World Conservation Congress to express their views, guide IUCN’s policy and approve its programme of work.


Biodiversity loss is continuing at an unprecedented rate, with many species declining to critical levels and significant numbers going extinct.  The IUCN Red List of Endangered Species is the most comprehensive information source on the status of wild species and their links to livelihoods.  The overall aim of the Red List is to convey the urgency and scale of conservation problems to the public and policy makers, and to motivate the global community to work together to reduce species extinctions.

The List assesses the extinction risk of species of all mammals, birds, amphibians, sharks, reef-building corals, cycads and conifers.  Work is underway to extend the work to all reptiles, fishes and selected groups of plants and invertebrates.


Of the eight species of bear, six are listed by the IUCN as threatened with extinction, described in the 2017 Red List as “Vulnerable”.

Of these four have decreasing populations:

Sun bear (Helarctos malayanus)

Sloth bear (Melursus ursinus)

Spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus)

Asiatic or Himalayan black bear (Ursus thibetanus)

For the fifth species, the polar bear (Ursus maritimus), there is insufficient reliable data to guage the population trend, but the destruction of their habitat through climate change confirms their continued listing as vulnerable to extinction.

The sixth threatened species is the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), which has moved from the higher risk category of “Endangered” to “Vulnerable” as its population is judged to be on the increase.

For more information on the IUCN and their work click here to go to their website.

Page updated 20 August 2017