Organizations for Biodiversity Conservation

Organizations for Biodiversity Conservation

This article deals with ‘Organizations for Biodiversity Conservation  – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Environment’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles on Science and technology, you can click here

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)


  • IUCN, established in 1948, is one of the world’s oldest global environmental organizations.
  • It is an organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
  • IUCN is headquartered in Gland (Switzerland). 
  • Its members include both Nation States and NGOs. 
  • It has observer status at United Nations General Assembly.

Main functions of IUCN

  • IUCN’s mission is to encourage, influence, and assist societies worldwide to conserve nature and ensure sustainable and equitable use of natural resources  
  • It influences governments and industries through partnerships by providing information and advice. 
  • The organization collects, compiles and publishes the IUCN red list of threatened species.

Red List of IUCN

  • The Red Databook or Red list is a system of classifying plants and animals on the basis of their likelihood of extinction.
  • The concept of the Red list was mooted in 1963. Each year, scientists worldwide assess or reassess species & IUCN Red List is subsequently updated. The latest list was released in 2021.
  • This list helps Governments and NGOs prioritize their efforts to save the particular plant, animal etc. Special emphasis should be paid to species on the red list, and their trade should be banned CITES.

It has divided all flora and fauna into 9 groups

1. Extinct (Ex)

  • The last individual has died.

2. Extinct in Wild (EW)

  • Only surviving in captivity.

3. Critically Endangered (CR)

If the organism satisfies any one of the following conditions

(1) Reduction in population over the last ten years > 90% 
(2) Population size number less than 50 mature individuals
(3) Probability of extinction in wild 50% in ten years

4. Endangered (EN)

If the organism satisfies any one of the following conditions

(1) Reduction in population over the last ten years >70%
(2) Population size number less than 250 mature individuals
(3) Probability of extinction in wild 20% in twenty years

5. Vulnerable (VU)

If the organism satisfies any one of the following conditions

(1) Reduction in population over the last ten years >50%
(2) Population size number less than 10,000 mature individuals
(3) Probability of extinction in wild 10% in 100 years

6. Near Threatened (NT)

  • Doesn’t qualify above three but is close to qualifying in future.

7. Least Concern (LC)

  • These have widespread & abundant taxa.

8. Data Deficient

  • Enough data is not available to conclude.

9. Not Evaluated

  • Species that are not evaluated at all 
Organizations for Biodiversity Conservation

Note: Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable are also known as Threatened Species. 

Limitations of IUCN Redlist

  • IUCN Red List contains 9 groups & the 9th group is not evaluated. It contains thousands of species.
  • It is also likely that many species have or are in the process of becoming extinct but not receiving government protection efforts because they are in the 9th or 8th group.



  • CITES or Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna & flora is the brainchild of IUCN.
  • It is headquartered in Geneva. 
  • It is an inter-governmental treaty to ensure that trade in the wildlife species doesn’t threaten their survival. 
  • It is also known as Washington Convention.
  • Limiting the trade of wildlife flora and fauna has become even more important due to frequent epidemics in the past few years like the SARS epidemic (bats), MERS-CoV (camels), Ebola (bats or non-human primates) and Nipah virus (bats).

Why illegal trade?

  • According to WHO, more than 50% of people in the world still use traditional medicines derived from animals and plants. In traditional Chinese and Asian medicine, the bones, tissues, and blood of tigers and the ivory of elephants are used to treat diseases like arthritis and impotence.
  • It is a multibillion-dollar industry, just like narcotic drugs trade with large supply chains.

How CITES work?

CITES has no enforcement authority of its own. It relies on the cooperation of various nations and classifies species into 3 Appendices to regulate their trade  

Appendix 1 Species threatened with extinction. E.g., Cheetah, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino etc.
Trade of these species is banned totally.
Appendix 2 Species that are not threatened with extinction, but maybe threatened if their trade is not controlled. Eg: Zebra, Black Bear, Queen Conch etc. 
Trader is required to get a licence to export such plants and animals.  
Appendix 3 Species that are listed as threatened in at least one country. 

CITES and India

  • CITES has undertaken many projects, especially with the help of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau under the Ministry of Environment. E.g., Project MIKE (Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants), Haathi Mere Saathi etc.
  • In recent times
    1. India has demanded to transfer Small Clawed Otters and Indian Star Tortoise from Appendix II to Appendix I.
    2. On the opposite side, India has also proposed to remove Rosewood from Appendix II.


1. It has no enforcement agency of its own

  • Hence, it depends on the agencies of different nations and their laws, which vary greatly 

2. Arena of the fight between Developed nations vs Developing nations 

  • CITES has become an arena of battle between developed nations, which promote a ban on trade in endangered species and developing nations, which see such trade as an economic resource. 

3. Introduction of Non-Native species

  • Sometimes, confiscated endangered species are released into nature in a country where it is confiscated instead of sending it back to their native habitat. It has potential ecological impacts. E.g., Malayan Pangolin was released in China. 

4. Placing species in the Appendix is counterproductive

  • If any species is included in Appendix I, it drives up the prices for that species, encouraging more hunting and poaching for trade. It was seen in the case of rhinoceros horn, elephant ivory, and tiger bone.  


  • WWF = World Wide Fund for Nature.
  • It was established in 1961.
  • Mission: “To conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.”
  • Headquarters: Gland, Switzerland
  • It runs a large number of projects in partnership with governments and bodies.


  • It is also known as Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network.
  • TRAFFIC is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) co-founded by WWF and IUCN, working on the global trade of wild plants and animals.
  • The aim is to ensure that trade in the wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. 
  • Headquartered in Cambridge (United Kingdom).
  • One of the major programs of TRAFFIC was Project Shatoosh (for Chiru).
  • It also passed a resolution in United Nations for combatting the illegal wildlife trade. 
  • It has also started a program for the protection of Indian Pangolins.
  • TRAFFIC’s latest campaign is the WANTED ALIVE series on the four Asian big cats- Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard and Clouded Leopard—all of them threatened by the illegal trade in their body parts.

Bombay National History Society (BNHS)

  • BNHS is an autonomous organization.
  • It deals with the conservation of flora and fauna, education and ecological conservation.
  • It is headquartered in Coimbatore
  • It has partnered with the Government of India to establish Salim Ali Centre on Ornithology and Natural History, which is an institute of higher learning which gives MPhil and PhD in Ornithology and Natural History.

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