When should we try to save critically endangered species?

Short-term fire fighting vs long-term preventative conservation

It seems self-evident that we should try to save highly endangered species. Preserving the greatest number of species on the planet is surely part of the raison d’etre for conservationists. When these endangered species are also iconic or charismatic then governments and NGOs are often willing to allocate relatively large amounts of money to help them. For example, approximately US$35-$40 million has been spent on the Californian condor over a 30-year period;
US$50 million has been expended on the whooping crane over 70 years; and many millions of dollars have been spent on mountain gorillas, the giant panda and the US ivory billed woodpecker over time.

But are these rational choices? Conservation budgets are limited and grossly inadequate to conserve much of the world’s biodiversity. The consequence of spending an unequal proportion of a constrained budget on a relatively small number of highly threatened species is that management actions for other species are not funded. A large number of species could be individually managed with the money that has been allocated to a few…





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