A vulnerable species is one which has been categorised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as likely to become endangered unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve.
Vulnerability is mainly caused by habitat loss or destruction. Vulnerable species are monitored and are becoming threatened. However, some species listed as "vulnerable" may in fact be quite common in captivity, an example being the military macaw.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature uses several criteria to enter species in this category. A taxon is Vulnerable when it is not Critically Endangered or Endangered but is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future, as defined by any of the following criteria (A to E):
A) Population reduction in the form of either of the following:
1) An observed, estimated, inferred or suspected reduction of at least 20% over the last 10 years or three generations, whichever is the longer, based on (and specifying) any of the following:
a) direct observation
b) an index of abundance appropriate for the taxon
c) a decline in area of occupancy, extent of occurrence and/or quality of habitat
d) actual or potential levels of exploitation
2) A reduction of at least 20%, projected or suspected to be met within the next ten years or three generations, whichever is the longer, based on (and specifying) any of (b), (c), (d) or (e) above.
B) Extent of occurrence estimated to be less than 20,000 km2 or area of occupancy estimated to be less than 2000 km2, and estimates indicating any two of the following:
1) Severely fragmented or known to exist at no more than ten locations.
2) Continuing decline, inferred, observed or projected, in any of the following:
a) extent of occurrence b) area of occupancy c) area, extent and/or quality of habitaty
d) number of locations or subpopulations
e) number of mature individuals
3) Extreme fluctuations in any of the following:
a) extent of occurrence
b) area of occupancy
c) number of locations or subpopulations
d) number of mature individuals
C) Population estimated to number less than 10,000 mature individuals and either:
1) An estimated continuing decline of at least 10% within 10 years or three generations, whichever is longer, or
2) A continuing decline, observed, projected, or inferred, in numbers of mature individuals and population structure in the form of either:
a) severely fragmented (i.e. no subpopulation estimated to contain more than 1000 mature individuals)
b) all individuals are in a single subpopulation
D) Population very small or restricted in the form of either of the following:
1) Population estimated to number less than 1000 mature individuals.
2) Population is characterised by an acute restriction in its area of occupancy (typically less than 100 km2) or in the number of locations (typically less than five). Such a taxon would thus be prone to the effects of human activities (or stochastic events whose impact is increased by human activities) within a very short period of time in an unforeseeable future, and is thus capable of becoming Critically Endangered or even Extinct in a very short period.
E) Quantitative analysis showing the probability of extinction in the wild is at least 10% within 100 years.
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