The Lion Sleeps Better Tonight
A new economic model that uses cost-benefit analyses to predict the fate of endangered species has been unveiled by New Zealand economist Robert Alexander and researcher Chris Fleming. The model analyzes the socio-economic pressures that push animals to the brink of extinction and could be used to assess the probable success or failure of conservation programs. For example, the model can weigh the economic benefits (in tourism dollars, say) of preserving an elephant in Africa against the expensive havoc the animal can wreak on nearby villages, which often spurs poachers into action. The model is not the first of its kind, but it is one of the first to look at multiple species and their habitats, rather than just individual species. The distinction is critical, say the researchers, because otherwise, the costs associated with preserving an elephant appear to be extremely high. By contrast, the new model takes into account that land preserved for elephants is also used by lions, leopards, rhinos, and so forth. Happily, that change yields some good news: While a single-species economic model predicted the extinction of the elephants, the multi-species model, when looking at both rhinos and elephants, predicted the survival of both species.