Saving Endangered Animals? $80 Billion Per Year—Or Half What Bankers Earned in 2011 Bonuses

Extinctions also disrupt important ecological processes that can lead to cascading losses and have adverse effects on our entire ecosystem.

Six-week-old Siberian tiger cub Antares paws at the camera at a Berlin zoo in 2008. (Photo: Johannes Eisele/Reuters)

Oct 11, 2012
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

Everyone has their tipping point when it comes to spending money on a particular item. You might pay $100 for something that you’d never consider paying $150 for. Which brings us to the question of the day:

How much would you pay to save species from extinction?

According to a report yesterday in The Guardian, “Spending on conservation projects must rise by ‘an order of magnitude’ if governments are to meet their pledges to manage protected areas and halt the spectacular rate of extinctions caused by human activity.”

MORE: Rabbit Species Named After Playboy's Hugh Hefner Faces Extinction

“To reduce the risk of extinction for all threatened species would cost up to $4.76 billion every year, they say, with a further $76.1 billion required annually to establish and manage protected areas for species known to be at risk from habitat loss, hunting and other human activities.”

Sounds like a lot, no? 

The Guardian has a few quotes from Stuart Butchart, the global research coordinator at BirdLife International in Cambridge, that put those numbers in perspective: “These seem enormous figures to us as individuals, but in terms of government budgets they are trivial...The $3-5 billion to improve the status of threatened species and prevent extinctions is less than the amount that the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier is over budget. And the cost for both species and site targets is less than half the amount spent on bankers' bonuses last year."

In a 2010 article for Yale Environment 360, the writer Richard Conniff offered an opinion piece that speaks to the same point. “[we] thrill to the possibility of finding the slightest microbial hint of life in outer space, hardly blinking when the U.S. government spends $7 billion a year largely for that purpose. Meanwhile, we spend pennies exploring the alien life forms that are all around us here on Earth.”

Some of the factors driving species extinctions were spelled out in a paper published by Princeton University Press entitled, “Causes and Consequences of Species Extinctions.” It stated that, “Habitat loss remains the main driver of extinctions, but it may act synergistically with other drivers such as over­harvesting and pollution, and, in the future, climate change. Large-bodied species, rare species, and habitat specialists are particularly prone to extinction as a result of rapid human modifications of the planet. Extinctions can disrupt vital ecological processes such as pollination and seed dispersal, leading to cascading losses, ecosystem collapse, and a higher extinction rate overall.”

And a 2010 article in The Guardian had what I think is a pretty shocking statement: “For the first time since the dinosaurs disappeared, humans are driving animals and plants to extinction faster than new species can evolve.”

In case you don’t know, ScienceDaily says that dinosaurs became extinct “65.95 million years [ago], give or take 40,000 years.”

Do you think it’s important to spend public funds to prevent species extinctions?

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Lawrence Karol is a writer and editor who lives with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet staffer and enjoys writing about design, food, travel and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence |

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