After years of discussion, many conservationists are starting to believe that it is time to consider shifting conservation efforts away from some of the world’s better known species, such as the tiger and panda, in order to concentrate on others which have a greater chance of success.
A recent survey of nearly 600 scientists involved in wildlife protection found that over half agreed with the concept of species “triage”. Triage is a medical term used when limited resources are concentrated only on those individuals who can survive with some assistance. In terms of conservation the idea works on the basis that conservation efforts are focussed on particular animal and plants that can be saved at the expense of species that are too difficult or costly to preserve in the wild.
Up until now this highly controversial idea has been met with little consensus. The fact that it is now being taken seriously clearly suggests the scale of the extinction crisis facing the natural world in the coming century, and the need to make correct decisions on which animals conservation efforts should be focussed. Dr Murray Rudd, an environmental economist at York University, who carried out the study, stated “The challenge in conservation is to know what’s beyond help and what’s not.”
With money increasingly becoming a scarce commodity, many conservationists are questioning the value of spending millions of pounds on ‘celebrity’ species such as tigers or pandas which are less likely to survive. Instead, they argue that money may be better used on other animals that have an equally important role to play within ecosystems but are more likely to survive.
An aptly used example by Dr Rudd is the Canadian government. They poured millions of dollars into efforts to save the Atlantic salmon which has been overfished for decades. However the attempts to bring levels of salmon stock back to a sustainable level has been met with little success, therefore begging the question could the money have been better spent on other conservation projects?
Despite the idea of triage flourishing in the minds of many conservationists, there are still many that have rejected the idea on the ground that it is impossible and immoral. This is primarily due to the difficulty in making a judgement about one species at the expense of another, given the complexity of ecological interactions within ecosystems.
What is clear in the mind of every conservationist is that the extinction of species is happening and at an alarming rate. The number of poaching related casualties has been rocketing recently, particularly in rhino populations. Even today news was announced of the extinction of western black rhinos. Given the risk of large losses of biological diversity the discussion of contentious conservation options by scientists can perhaps be understood. What is imperative though is that a successful solution must be found in order to stop other species following in the footsteps of the western black rhino.
By Anthony Kubale