Poor Pro­tect, Rich Ne­glect?


In Flight Magazine - - IN THIS ISSUE -

Scores of an­i­mal species across the globe – in­clud­ing tigers, lions and rhi­nos – are at risk of ex­tinc­tion due to threats posed by mankind. Re­cent stud­ies in­di­cate that 59 % of the world’s largest car­ni­vores and 60 % of the world’s largest her­bi­vores are cur­rently threat­ened with ex­tinc­tion. Th­ese species, known as megafauna, play very im­por­tant eco­log­i­cal roles, but can be dif­fi­cult to live with be­cause they are prone to con­flict with hu­mans and can be chal­leng­ing to con­serve.

Some megafauna species pose a di­rect risk to hu­man life, crops, live­stock and even pets.The tar­geted killing of th­ese an­i­mals for their body parts, in­clud­ing skins, teeth, horns, bones and other or­gans, also means that sig­nif­i­cant ef­fort and ex­pen­di­ture is needed to pro­tect large mam­mals from poach­ers sup­ply­ing the illegal wildlife trade.

Many megafauna species also re­quire large open spa­ces, re­sult­ing in sig­nif­i­cant blocks of wilder­ness set aside to ac­com­mo­date them. How­ever, large mam­mals also en­gen­der un­par­al­leled passion with the pub­lic for con­ser­va­tion.

Sur­pris­ingly lit­tle at­ten­tion has been paid to how the world shares the bur­den of con­serv­ing th­ese charis­matic species. We can­not ig­nore the pos­si­bil­ity that we will lose many of them un­less swift, de­ci­sive and col­lec­tive ac­tion is taken by the global com­mu­nity.

There­fore, the need ex­ists to as­sess the rel­a­tive con­tri­bu­tions and sac­ri­fices made by coun­tries for con­ser­va­tion. Mea­sur­ing the ef­forts of na­tions to con­serve such species seemed like a good place to start.

My col­leagues and I set about to try to do just that. The idea was to iden­tify a bench­mark so that coun­tries that are un­der­per­form­ing, in con­ser­va­tion terms, could be en­cour­aged to do more.

We cre­ated a “megafauna con­ser­va­tion in­dex” where we mea­sured 152 coun­tries on the fol­low­ing three ar­eas based on the lat­est avail­able in­for­ma­tion:

• Spa­tial Con­tri­bu­tion: The pro­por­tion of the coun­try oc­cu­pied by each megafauna species.

• Eco­log­i­cal Con­tri­bu­tion: The pro­por­tion of the range of th­ese species that’s strictly pro­tected in each coun­try. • Fi­nan­cial Con­tri­bu­tion: The amount of money spent on con­ser­va­tion by each coun­try – ei­ther do­mes­ti­cally or in­ter­na­tion­ally – rel­a­tive to GDP.

This data was ex­tremely chal­leng­ing to col­lect, par­tic­u­larly the in­for­ma­tion on the ex­pen­di­tures of coun­tries on con­ser­va­tion.


Im­prov­ing the data on megafauna-spe­cific ex­pen­di­ture im­por­tant next step.

We found wide di­ver­gence among na­tions. Poorer coun­tries tend to con­trib­ute more and have a higher megafauna con­ser­va­tion in­dex, while richer coun­tries con­trib­ute less. The rea­son for this varies from coun­try to coun­try, and con­ti­nent to con­ti­nent. For ex­am­ple, African coun­tries tended to score higher than other parts of the world in terms of the dis­tri­bu­tion and di­ver­sity of megafauna species.

The in­dex clas­si­fied 90 % of coun­tries in North/Cen­tral Amer­ica and 70 % of coun­tries in Africa as ma­jor or above av­er­age per­form­ers. But ap­prox­i­mately one quar­ter of coun­tries in Asia (25 %) and Eu­rope (21 %) were iden­ti­fied as ma­jor un­der­per­form­ers. Asia as a re­gion scored the low­est megafauna con­ser­va­tion in­dex, and is home to the great­est num­ber of coun­tries clas­si­fied as con­ser­va­tion un­der­per­form­ers.

Al­though chal­lenged by poverty and in­sta­bil­ity in many parts of the con­ti­nent, Africa pri­ori­tises and makes more of an ef­fort is an

The in­dex clas­si­fied 90 % of coun­tries in North/Cen­tral Amer­ica and 70 % of coun­tries in Africa as ma­jor or above av­er­age per­form­ers. But ap­prox­i­mately one quar­ter of coun­tries in Asia (25 %) and Eu­rope (21 %) were iden­ti­fied as ma­jor un­der­per­form­ers.

for large mam­mal con­ser­va­tion than any other re­gion in the world. In fact, Africa ac­counts for four of the five top-per­form­ing megafauna con­ser­va­tion na­tions, in­clud­ing Botswana, Namibia, Tan­za­nia and Zim­babwe.The United States was ranked No 19 out of the top-20 per­form­ing coun­tries.


At the 1992 Rio Earth Sum­mit, de­vel­oped na­tions vowed to al­lo­cate at least $2 bil­lion per an­num to­wards con­ser­va­tion in de­vel­op­ing na­tions. How­ever, cur­rent con­ser­va­tion con­tri­bu­tions from in­dus­tri­alised na­tions have reached just half of that amount, av­er­ag­ing just $1.1 bil­lion per year.

The world needs to do much more for megafauna con­ser­va­tion, but some coun­tries need to step up more than oth­ers. Sev­eral de­vel­oped coun­tries, in par­tic­u­lar, need to make much more of an ef­fort in pre­serv­ing what is a global as­set and a shared re­spon­si­bil­ity.

There are three ways in which coun­tries can im­prove their score:

• “Re-wild­ing” land­scapes by rein­tro­duc­ing megafauna or by al­low­ing the dis­tri­bu­tion of such species to in­crease. • Set­ting aside more land as strictly pro­tected ar­eas. • In­vest­ing more in con­ser­va­tion, ei­ther at home or abroad. We hope that by cre­at­ing this con­ser­va­tion in­dex, na­tions around the globe will be mo­bilised to in­vest more in in­ter­na­tional con­ser­va­tion sup­port to save the planet’s large and mag­nif­i­cent wildlife species.

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