#1 Does rarity (and listing) protect or harm species? The accuracy and relevance of assumptions made about economics underlies many of the major arguments about the impact of activities such as illegal wildlife trafficking, the need to ban ivory and other products derived from wildlife. A major argument made by those who espouse the opening of trade in ivory and other wildlife products (e.g., medicine made from tigers, rhinos, etc.) is that regulated trade can help preserve wildlife habitat because owners of the habitat will have a reason to preserve it that will not exist if bans exist. Secondly, they argue that as wildlife become threatened and scarce, the cost of harvesting/poaching of them will become so great that these activities will cease and thus the species will not be driven to extinction but will be able to recover. A 2006 article in Plos Biology by Frank Courchamp et al. titled “Rarity Value and Species Extinction: The Anthropogenic Allee Effect” calls the second of these assumptions into question. They posit the existence of what they label an “Anthropogenic Allee Effect (AAE) in which the increasing rarity of a species makes it all the more desirable to humans as a matter of prestige and value so that threats to species are not saved by increasing rarity but, indeed, may suffer all the more from it! They cite several cases to illustrate the AAE including butterflies in Papua New Guinea, the great Auk (bird), Napoleon wrasse (a reef fish) served as a delicacy in China, many sturgeon and abalone fish, and rare turtles and geckos used as pets. The most disturbing aspect of the article is the fact that they find that official listing of a species as threatened such as by CITES increases the price of the species and thus can make it the subject of even more abuse from threatening activities such as trophy hunting, poaching, pet trade, native “medicinal” uses, and ecotourism. Unless the species can be effectively protected, the assignment of “threatened status can make matters worse! The authors have provide no hope for easy solution other than for humanity to be informed about the harm of their actions and the development of more effective regulations. The article is available from http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.0040415
During my research for the book, I noticed that there was no blog available for sharing informaton on wildlife conservation and thus I set up this blog to accomplish this purpose. Please share any informaticoncerning issues related to wildife policy and politics. I welcome feedback from users concerning this blog and website.