Priority & endangered species

Conservation efforts are needed for threatened species whose survival cannot be guaranteed by conserving their habitat alone.

WWF is focusing efforts on a select group of priority species that are especially important, either for their ecosystem...

  • Species forming a key element of the food chain
  • Species which help the stability or regeneration of habitats
  • Species demonstrating broader conservation needs


...or for people

  • Species important for the health and livelihoods of local communities
  • Species exploited commercially
  • Species that are important cultural icons.

These species fall into two groups:
  1. Flagship species – iconic animals that provide a focus for raising awareness and stimulating action and funding for broader conservation efforts 

  2. Footprint-impacted species – species whose populations are primarily threatened because of unsustainable hunting, logging or fishing. 
Strategially focusing efforts on these species will also help conserve the many other species which share their habitats and/or are vulnerable to the same threats.

Virtual Gifts

Virtual Gifts / ©: WWF

2020 Species Goal

By 2020, populations of the most ecologically, economically and culturally important species are restored and thriving in the wild.

Species are threatened in every habitat on every continent

In the time is takes you to read this page, one of our planet’s unique species will become extinct. By this time tomorrow, a further 150–200 will have disappeared forever. And by this time next year, over 50,000 more.

This alarming rate of extinction is 100-1,000 times, and perhaps even 11,000 times, greater than the expected natural rate.

One in four of the world’s mammals are now threatened with extinction in the near future. So are one in eight birds, one in five sharks, one in four coniferous trees, and one in three amphibians.

By and large, the cause of this decline is human activities. The land we use for living space, food, clothing, housing, fuel; the things we buy; and the waste we produce – all this contributes to the main causes of species loss:

  • Habitat loss
  • Unsustainable trade
  • Bycatch
  • Climate change
  • Invasive species
  • Pollution
  • Human-animal conflict

Find out more...

Flagship species
Iconic animals that provide a focus for raising awareness and stimulating action and funding for broader conservation efforts.
Footprint-impacted species
Species whose populations are primarily threatened because of unsustainable hunting, logging or fishing.

Why cactus and cod?

The plight of polar bears, pandas, and other large iconic mammals is generally well known, at least in industrialized countries.

But most people don't stop to consider whether the fish they eat, the house plants they buy, or the herbal tea they drink comes from a threatened species, or whether taking it from the wild harmed its habitat or another species.

Most people also don't realize that hundreds of millions of plants and animals are harvested from the wild each year, from thousands of species.

We want to make sure that cacti, cod, and all other species involved in wildlife trade are harvested sustainably and in a way that doesn't hurt other species or their wider ecosystem.
Barrel cactus near Zapotitlán Salinas,Tehuacán Valley, Puebla, Mexico. / ©: Anthony B. Rath / WWF-Canon
Barrel cactus near Zapotitlán Salinas,Tehuacán Valley, Puebla, Mexico.
© Anthony B. Rath / WWF-Canon

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