About the Species Use Database

What is the Species Use Database and why is it needed?

Despite billions of people using and relying on wild species globally, there is a general lack of awareness and appreciation of the many and diverse ways in which species are utilised (and the contribution this makes to different aspects of human wellbeing) including e.g., for food, fuel, medicines, clothing, textiles, pets and ornaments. In fact, many end users will have little idea that what they are consuming is in fact a wild derived product. 

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Fig.1. The multiple uses of wild species


Use of wild species involves a range of different practices that can be both lethal and non-lethal. These include what are termed “extractive practices” such as harvesting, gathering, collecting, hunting, fishing and ranching, and “non-extractive practices” such as tourism activities like wildlife safaris, bird watching or snorkelling, or cultural and spiritual rituals.

There is an ongoing debate about the sustainability of different uses of wildlife - especially when that use involves lethal practices of sentient creatures and particularly what are commonly referred to as "charismatic megafauna" (e.g., lions, elephants, bears, tigers).

The Species Use Database (SpUD) has been created by the IUCN Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group (SULi) to help address this problem by collecting and synthesising information on the utilization of wild species globally, and specifically on the sustainability of that use. 

The database is intended to appeal to a broad spectrum of users, from those in policy and decision-making, to academia and educators, conservation practitioners, civil society and NGOs, as well as any individuals interested and keen to learn more about the use of wild species. The individual records - and the periodic syntheses of these - can be used to guide and feed into sound policies and decision-making, that enhance legal, sustainable, equitable wildlife management practices and draw attention to those that are illegal, unsustainable and inequitable. 

What is Sustainable Use?

Sustainable use is “the use of components of biological diversity in a way and at a rate that does not lead to the long-term decline of biological diversity, thereby maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of present and future generations.”                                    Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, 1992)


Over-exploitation of wild species is one of the key drivers of biodiversity loss. At the same time, use of wild species can provide vital incentives for conservation as well as being fundamental to human well-being. A ground breaking report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), released in 2022, confirmed the considerable importance of the use of wild species for billions of people worldwide:

  • Plants, algae and fungi provide food, income and nutritional diversity for an estimated one in five people around the world, in particular women, children, landless farmers and others in vulnerable situations. 
  • Freshwater and marine fisheries are primary sources of animal protein, nutrients and income for hundreds of millions of people worldwide, while wild meat from terrestrial animals remains a major source of protein for some rural and urban populations. 
  • The use of wild species also provides non-material contributions by enriching people's physical and psychological experiences, including their religious and ceremonial lives.


It is absolutely critical, therefore, that the use of wild species is sustainable in order that it can continue to deliver benefits both for nature and people.


Analyses of uses of wild living resources in a number of different contexts demonstrate that there are many biological, social, cultural, and economic factors, which combine in a variety of configurations to affect the likelihood that a particular use may be sustainable. Ensuring use of wild species is sustainable means that it needs to involve an ongoing process of adaptive management, allowing for modifications to take account of risk and uncertainty (The IUCN Policy Statement on Sustainable Use of Wild Living Resources, 2000).

How is the database populated?

Each record in the database documents a specific use of a species in a specific location. The records in the database are based on a wide range of sources, including (but not limited to): grey literature and peer-reviewed papers, indigenous/local knowledge, data, knowledge and research from individuals working in a relevant area, and reports (internal and external), articles and blog posts. To be admissible each record must provide details on the source of the information it includes.

Where a record includes information about the sustainability of the species use, this is based simply on what has been recorded in the source material. The database has not been designed to calculate or present formal assessments of sustainability. However, over time, as the database builds a critical mass of records, we plan to evaluate comparable records and present summaries of the evidence on the sustainability of use. 


Extractive practices

Harvesting animal products


Harvesting Fungi / Plants / Algae

Ranching / Farming

Hunting / Trapping

Logging / Wood Harvesting


Non-extractive practices

Watching / Experiencing Terrestrial, Aerial or Aquatic Fauna/Flora

Cultural / Spiritual