Assessments of biodiversity status are needed to track trends, and the IUCN Red List has become the accepted global standard for documenting the extinction risk of species. Obtaining robust data on population size is an essential component of any assessment of a species’ status, including assessments for the IUCN Red List. Obtaining such estimates is complicated by methodological and logistical issues, which are more pronounced in the case of cryptic species, such as the snow leopard Panthera uncia. Estimates of the total population size of this species have, to date, been based on little more than guesstimates, but a comprehensive summary of recent field research indicates that the conservation status of the snow leopard may be less dire than previously thought. A revised categorization, from Endangered to Vulnerable, on the IUCN Red List was proposed but met some opposition, as did a recent, similar recategorization of the giant panda Ailuropoda melanoleuca. Possible factors motivating such attitudes are discussed. Downlisting on the IUCN Red List indicates that the species concerned is further from extinction, and is always to be welcomed, whether resulting from successful conservation intervention or improved knowledge of status and trends. Celebrating success is important to reinforce the message that conservation works, and to incentivize donors.