There is a wide international consensus that there is an urgent need to compile national inventories of animal genetic resources, supported by periodic monitoring of trends and threats, to underpin their effective management. This paper gives an overview of how to set about this task, primarily through national strategies but also through ad hoc surveys. It is important to establish stakeholder involvement at an early stage of setting up the national strategy so that the surveys can be made more effective and the emergent actions can be more readily implemented. There are a wide variety of tools available for surveying and monitoring, ranging from mapping expeditions to household surveys and censuses, encompassing methods associated with rapid rural appraisals. Tools have different strengths and weaknesses and their relative cost effectiveness will depend on objectives. Performing a baseline survey is a key step because it serves as a reference point for future monitoring; however, to be cost effective, more rudimentary surveys may be needed beforehand to establish reliable design parameters. Calibration of one method to another is an important task when several methods are being used for monitoring. Planning and design, communication, sensitive field work, data management and an analysis appropriate to the objectives are all necessary elements of a successful survey.