Red Data Book

Essentially, the Red Data Book refers to a document maintained by a state or a nation that is established to record and document the rare and endangered species of plants and animals that exist within the boundary of that respective state or nation. All the known endangered species and sub-species of plants, fungi and animals are recorded to the Red Data Book.

The Red Data Book helps to provide detailed information for studies and research regarding the endangered species and subspecies of animals. In addition to that it also helps in coordinating and developing monitoring programs on these endangered and rare species. It is of great help in designing effective measures that could help in protecting various endangered species.

The Red Data Book is maintained by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). This organisation had been founded in the year 1965 and works towards the “conservation of nature and the sustainable use of the natural resources.”

Brief History of the Red Data Book

The first Red Data Book animals, plants and fungi was based upon the extensive research carried out by biologists in the Soviet Union which was conducted between the years 1961 and 1964. This document that listed all the endangered species of plants, fungi and animals, within the Russian territorial jurisdiction was known as the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation (RDBRF). 

The Red Data Book has been maintained by the IUCN since 1964 and has used a set of criteria to evaluate the risk of extinction of thousands of endangered species and sub species around the world. The set of criteria are chosen such that they are relevant to all the species and all regions of the world. It has been over the years recognised to be one of the most authoritative sources regarding the current status of biological diversity in the world at any given point in time. Apart from the centralised IUCN Red Data Book, there are also other regional or national red data books that are maintained by individual states or nations that contain the cumulative data regarding endangered species within their own territorial boundaries.

The objectives of maintaining the Red Data Book, as provided by the IUCN (1996) are given as follows

To provide scientifically based information on the status of species and subspecies at a global level”
“To draw attention to the magnitude and importance of threatened biodiversity”
“To influence national and international policy and decision-making”
“To provide information to guide actions to conserve biological diversity”


The information detailed in the Red data Book are provided in carefully colour coded sections depending on the level of endangerment that a species has been found in. The specific meanings of the colour coding of the information has been provided below.

Black: Extinct species; 

Red: Critically Endangered Species; 

Orange: Endangered species; 

Amber: Vulnerable Species; 

White: Rare species;

Green: Out of Danger species;

Grey: Species that are “endangered, vulnerable or rare but with a lack of sufficient information to precisely categorise them”                                          


Advantages of the Red Data Book

  • It can be used to estimate the total population of any given species of plant or animal.

  • It can be used to evaluate the taxa at a pan – global scale.

  • It can be used to find out the conservation status of any species.

  • It can be used to evaluate the risk of endangerment of any species of animals, plants or fungi at any given time.

  • It can be beneficial in developing a conservation plan for an endangered species of animals or plants.


  • Disadvantages of the Red Data Book

  • The documentation regarding the sources of the data have not always been properly maintained and as such the validity of the data can sometimes be brought to question.

  • The Red Data Book is a work in progress and not all of the endangered or extinct species have yet been identified or put in and as such may not provide the most accurate data at any given point of time.


  • Red Data Book of India

    According to the IUCN Red Data Book of India, the following categories for endangered species have been identified.

    Critically Endangered mammals

    Malabar Civet (Viverra civettina)

    Endangered mammals

    Dhole / Asiatic wild dog or Indian wild dog (Cuon alpinus)

    Lion-tailed macaque / wanderoo (macaca silenus)

    Nilgiri langur / Nilgiri leaf monkey (Trachypithecus johnii)

    Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) 

    Vulnerable mammals

    Gaur / Indian Bison

    Nilgiri marten (Martes gwatkinsii)

    Critically endangered birds

    Spoon Billed Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus)

    Near threatened reptiles

    Sispara day gecko (Cnemaspis sisparensis)

    In summary

  • Red Data Book refers to a document maintained by a state or a nation that is established to record and document the rare and endangered species of flora and fauna that exist within the boundary of that respective state or nation.

  • Information about Red Data Book is maintained by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

  • The first Red Data Book animals, plants and fungi was based upon the extensive research carried out by biologists in the Soviet Union which was conducted between the years 1961 and 1964.

  • Colour coding of the list is done as follows - Black: Extinct species; Red: Critically Endangered Species; Orange: Endangered species; Amber: Vulnerable Species; White: Rare species; Green: Out of Danger species; Grey: Species that are “endangered, vulnerable or rare but with a lack of sufficient information to precisely categorise them.”