Difference between Endangered and Threatened Species

Updated on April 10, 2017

Environmentalists have drawn attention to the fact that we are at risk of losing even more species of plants and animals. Once a species goes extinct, it is gone forever, and it is impossible to bring back. The consequence? We have a poorer ecosystem and a threatened natural balance. This means that we must take action while we still can, when the situation is bad but not yet unchangeable – like when species are endangered or threatened. But what is the difference between these two? This article will help you learn their differences.

Definitions

Endangered
A Bengal tiger, one of the endangered species

Endangered species are those on the verge of extinction. The World Wildlife Organization even has a “critically endangered” status for some species. This level depends on the population of the respective animal or plant and it requires immediate cessation of all actions which have led to the endangerment of the animals. Usually, this means heavy harvesting and hunting. Many animals are on the endangered list, including the Bengal tiger, Siberian tiger, Asian elephant, blue whale, bluefin tuna, Galapagos penguin, Indian elephant, red panda, sea lion, snow tiger, African elephant, and many more.

Actions need to be taken for these animals to stop being endangered in their natural habitats and to be allowed to breed and increase their populations. This is easier said than done, especially since poachers and illegal hunting and harvesting are usually a main contributing cause.

The endangered status can be lifted and taken down to threatened if the number of the animals or plants increase in captivity and if their release back into the wild is successful.

Threatened species
An Arctic fox – one of the threatened species

Threatened species are those whose numbers are already starting to decrease. Compared to the “vulnerable” level where population numbers are still fairly good but could start to decrease if specific actions (like hunting) do not stop, threatened means that their numbers have already started going down. This is the first signal that actions need to be taken. Technically, threatened species are between the “extinct” and “least concern” categories.

Endangered vs Threatened Species

So what is the difference between endangered and threatened?

An endangered species is on the verge of extinction, while a threatened species only has decreasing numbers. For an endangered species, the only things that can be done are to help keep the last specimens safe and to create an environment for them to breed and repopulate. For a threatened species, measures limiting the destruction of their habitat and their excessive killing or harvesting must be taken.

Endangered species are included in the threatened category. It represents the middle ground between a need to address the issue and an imperative to interfere before the species goes extinct.

Comparison Chart

EndangeredThreatened
Means a species is on the verge of extinctionMeans a species could go extinct in the near future
Is a threat levelIs a category on the threatened species red list
Severely affected populationsPopulation numbers have already started decreasing
Captivity breeding and controlled release is the only solutionDealing with the problem is still an option to limit the killing of more specimens