Free market forces can save some species, but habitat is still crucial
A success story:
Instead of unboxing box turtles, maybe WildAid should consider setting up a cell tower and some motion sensitive digital cell cameras to keep the wildlife traffickers out of the preserves. It is a lopsided struggle. One side stands to profit while the other relies on donations and volunteers. Find a way to make it more profitable (or fun by harnessing some aspect of human nature) to preserve biodiversity and you will win every time. My youngest daughter owns a New Caledonian Crested Gecko (named Elvis). Like the Ivory Billed woodpecker (coincidentally also code-named Elvis), the lizards were thought to be extinct until their rediscovery a decade ago. At that time, a few legal crested specimens were collected for study and breeding, followed by a totally predictable binge of illegal collecting for profit.The story has a happy ending. Because the lizards thrive in captivity, breeding by gecko enthusiasts has created a big market for them in the pet trade. Following typical free-market forces, the price for one has gone form several hundred dollars five years ago to as low as $29 today. But here is the key: the incentive to poach wild-caught geckos has been eliminated. You know the old saying, “If the American Federation of Herpetoculturists had existed 60 million years ago, the dinosaurs would never have gone extinct” … or maybe you haven’t heard that one.
Of course, if the natural habitat is not protected, they will go extinct in the wild. And really, that is the whole point. Our zoos are filling with species that have lost their natural habitat. If this happens to the Crested Gecko they will eventually become a lizard version of koi. Conservation of habitat is still critical.