Azara Blog: Another extinction report

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Date published: 2005/12/13

The BBC says:

Researchers have compiled a global map of sites where animals and plants face imminent extinction.

The list, drawn up by a coalition of conservation groups, covers almost 800 species which they say will disappear soon unless urgent measures are taken.

Most of the 800 are now found only in one location, mainly in the tropics.

Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers say protecting some of these sites would cost under $1,000 per year.

"This is a whole suite of species threatened with extinction," said Stuart Butchart, global species programme co-ordinator with BirdLife International, one of the groups behind the report.

"Most of them are living on single sites and are therefore highly vulnerable to human impacts," he told the BBC News website.

"Safeguarding this suite of sites is not the only thing we need to do; but if we don't protect them, these are guaranteed extinctions."
"In Madagascar the community benefits," said John Fa, "because we have been able to attract donor money to support the establishment of schools, building of wells, and starting initiatives like home gardens; so people see there are benefits from conserving wildlife."

The AZE team has calculated the cost of conserving each of the 595 key sites; they conclude that the annual price would vary hugely, from $470 up to $3,500,000.

Well one of the criteria used in the study was that at least 95% of the species lived on one site, so the second comment by Butchart above is redundant. The original article is worth reading (unlike most science articles, it is understandable by the lay-person). The costs quoted are estimates only (based on a crude formula) and, as mentioned above, they are only operating costs. As for capital costs, the original article says: "One-time acquisition costs for unprotected sites can be many times their management costs but may often be much lower because protection may be achieved through redesignation of public lands to higher levels of protection or better enforcement of existing designations." Does that or does that not imply that if only governments would steal the appropriate land (i.e. "redesignate" the land, hence decreasing the market value) then the purchase costs could me made much lower. Of course governments often do this kind of thing. There is also the small issue of the people who live on or near these sites. Presumably their voices should be heard at least as much as a bunch of scientific outsiders (the original article rarely rates local inhabitants a mention, other than as a problem). The comment about Madagascar in the BBC article is odd. The benefits quoted have no connection with "conserving wildlife", it is just that in this case the rich outsiders have put extra money into the whole program. There is nothing wrong with that, of course. Rich outsiders who think that someone else's land should be protected from human exploitation should definitely cough up more than enough money to pay for this.

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