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Archive for February, 2013

A report recently published on Live Mint has revealed that over half of India’s wildlife budget goes to protecting tigers. For the 2012-2013 year, $31 million of the $63 million budget were allocated to Project Tiger. Tigers are listed as endangered in India, but the country is also home to over 130 species that are listed as critically endangered (the status preceding extinction).

Elephant conservation efforts received the next largest funding amount, at $4 million, while–ironically–$1 million went to efforts to prevent illegal wildlife trade.

It’s not new news that more glamorous endangered species tend to receive the most funding for conservation efforts. Tigers and elephants are two examples, along with polar bears, snow leopards, and gorillas, to name just a few. The allocation of conservation funding, which is already in short supply, says a lot about a country’s priorities. There are both pros and cons to this allocation method–that is, spending more money on conserving the most globally-treasured species.

The obvious tendency, in India and worldwide, is to funnel money towards more popular endangered species while focusing less on smaller, less impressive species. While this affects species existing outside of the realm of public knowledge, it does propel conservation as a broader topic into the general population’s awareness. So while the Indian Bustard is facing extinction with only 250 left in the wild, tiger conservation efforts are, at least, making people more aware of the need to conserve wildlife.

This funding method also has its drawbacks. By focusing attention, money, and efforts on the these hot-ticket species, we are failing to account for the chain of events that occurs when any species, even a fish or a small bird, has on the ecosystem. Any time any species is removed from their habitat, other species will be affected. There will be disruptions in prey availability, foraging availability, nesting or burrowing options, or disease or pest control. Conserving less publicly-compelling species is necessary for protecting an overall habitat, and it’s likely that a hot-ticket species, such as the tiger, exists in an ecosystem that incorporates one of these critically endangered ‘lesser’ species.

Also worth pointing out in the break-down of India’s conservation spending is its prioritization of illegal wildlife trade efforts. In spending only $1 million on reducing illegal trade, while spending $31 million on tiger conservation, are they approaching the issue backwards? If they instead focused the majority of their budget and efforts on illegal trade, would tiger numbers naturally start to recover? Obviously there are economic considerations at play here, about which I’m not qualified to speculate. but the break-down is interesting, and would be an interesting study to take further.

Links:

Tigers Get the Conservation Love in India

It’s Time to Look Beyond the Tiger

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Florida’s 2013 Python Challenge came to a close last week, with the total number of pythons killed coming in at 68. Although there were 1,600 registered participants, pythons are notoriously difficult to hunt and kill, as the challenge proved. There are estimated to be over 100,000 burmese pythons living in the Florida Everglades, but they are a rare sight and are hard to track. Wildlife officials say that while the take is low and will not have an impact on python numbers, the challenge increased public awareness of pythons, which is an important step towards controlling the species.

Pythons were first introduced to the Everglades in the last 1970s, most likely when exotic pet traders released snakes into the wild. Pythons are wreaking havoc on local flora and fauna: opossum and bobcat populations are down 99% since the pythons became established in the Everglades. Because the snakes have no natural predators and have an abundance of prey in the area, population numbers are growing faster than they can be controlled.

Link:

2013 Python Challenge

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