Verreaux’s Sifaka, a threatened species on the IUCN’s Red List of Endangered Species.
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There are currently over 26,500 species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. To put that into perspective, that’s more than 27 percent of all assessed species. As if that’s not bad enough, consider this: new research suggests that there are even more endangered species than originally thought.

“Currently approximately 600 species might be inaccurately assessed as non-threatened on the Red List of Threatened Species,” Science Daily reports. “More than a hundred others that couldn’t be assessed before also appear to be threatened.”

This frightening revelation is the result of a new, more advanced method of assessing extinction risk. Experts say it’s much more accurate than the old system.

The problem with the old system is that it’s based on data collected once every few years by environmental scientists who voluntarily analyze the conservation status of various animal species. The species are then divided into five extinction risk categories, which range from Least Concern to Critically Endangered.

“Our vision is that our new method will soon be automated so that data is re-updated every year with new land cover information,” said Radboud University ecologist Luca Santini. “Thus, our method really can speed up the process and provide an early warning system by pointing specifically to species that should be re-assessed quickly.”

Carlo Rondinini, Director of the Global Mammal Assessment Programme for the Red List, readily admits that the old system is flawed. He says that the new method can provide more precise data.

“As the Red List grows, keeping it updated becomes a daunting task,” Rondinini explained. “Algorithms that use near-real time remote sensing products to scan across vast species lists, and flag those that may be nearing extinction, can improve dramatically the timeliness and effectiveness of the Red List.”