The Cost of Saving Tigers (and other Endangered Species)

image_35-300x19919 June 2014 | Interview by Craig Kasnoff

Yesterday, I wrote in my Endangered Earth Journal about how ‘daunting’ the task of saving endangered species might be. This was based on the following:

To save endangered species from extinction, there are two things you have to know:

1) How many (or which) species are in danger of becoming extinct.
2) What will it cost to keep each species from becoming extinct.

As I wrote yesterday, there really is no good answer to the first question because we honestly don’t know how many species are on Earth. It has recently been estimated at 8.7 million (or so), but this is just an estimate.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is considered to be the world’s oldest and largest global environmental network with more than 1,000 government and NGO member organizations, and almost 11,000 volunteer scientists in more than 160 countries. And the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species.

And even thought the IUCN has done an amazing job by reviewing the status of over 61,900 species (both plant and animal), this is only about 1% of the estimated 8.7 million species thought to be on the planet (give or take a million).

So that, in itself, makes the question of how to save Earth’s endangered species, impossible to answer.

But let’s science knew how many species were threatened with extinction. Or, better, let’s just go with what we know about the species that have been reviewed by the IUCN. According to the IUCN, the status for the species they have reviewed suggests that upwards towards 25% of mammals are at risk of extinction.

That means 1 of every 4 mammals on the planet is an endangered animal. And that means there are ‘thousands’ of animals on Earth that are endangered.

Having a ‘working’ number for the first part of the equation, let’s go to the second part; money.
The truth of the matter is, money is simply the key to saving endangered species. Without the financial resources to save a species, it’s simply not going to happen. There is no science; there are no zoos; there are no Species Survival Programs; there are no education programs; there are no programs to stop (hopefully shoot) poachers; and there are no land ‘buy back’ programs; etc..

However If you do have the financial resources, then everything else pretty much falls into the category of ‘details’ (i.e. the political issues; the cultural issues; the ‘will’ of people to act on the issue, etc.).

And then the question becomes how much money is, and will be needed to save endangered species.

So, let’s narrow the IUCN’s list of endangered species down to just one species; the tiger (or the six sub-species of tiger remaining).

This takes us back to the Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP), who in their strategy to save tigers in the wild, states:

“Tiger range countries are already devoting considerable resources to wildlife conservation and some are planning to do even more. Total incremental costs to achieve the goal of doubling wild tiger populations are currently being estimated but are likely in the range of $100-200 million per year to be financed from national and international sources.

To undertake catalytic activities that enable TRCs to strengthen political will, build institutional architecture, and develop project concepts for financing by traditional large lenders such as GEF and Multi-lateral Development Banks, GTI is seeking the commitment of external incremental resources of about $35-40 million per year over the next critical five years.”

So the Global Tiger Recovery Program estimates between $100-200 million -per year- for the next 10 years to save tigers from becoming extinct in the wild.

And that is just to save one species from extinction (in the wild). And there are thousands of endangered species to be saved.

What this essentially means is it will be a ‘fascinating’ (and daunting) challenge to save Earth’s endangered species from extinction.

But it is a challenge that, if only for the sake of the species that are endangered, must be faced.

Find organizations saving endangered species at Saving Endangered Species.

Bagheera is Produced by Endangered Species Journalist Craig Kasnoff

to Promote the Plight of Endangered Species and the Efforts to Save Them.