Sunday, May 20, 2007

How to save the tiger.

Which country is thinking about applying free-market principles to wildlife preservation and, in the process, improving the survival chances of a long-endangered species while giving its economy a boost?

Communist China, of course.

Clicking on the above excerpt will take you to a thought-provoking argument for saving animals subject to poaching by embracing the demand for the products they're killed for (furs, teeth, bones, etc.)

Farming these animals would meet the demand for the products they're killed for, in contrast to the current prohibition on the products that increases the value of these animals in the black market and makes it worthwhile to illegally hunt animals in their natural habitats. (Not to mention necessitates the involvement of crime in the production of different products. Sound familiar?)

The article uses tigers as an example - tigers are apparently ridiculously easy to breed, to the point that in India breeding tigers is reduced to avoid overpopulation in zoos.

If a tiger farming market was set up, thousands of tigers a year could be raised to meet the demands of, say, the Chinese markets for different medicinal products or exotic fur traders, reducing the price of tiger products and taking away the incentive to go hunting for an endangered species. In addition, since so many tigers would be bred, reintroduction techniques could be used to further increase the wild
tiger population.

Of course there would be opposition to this - the thought of tigers being bred for fur, meat, etc. isn't a great one. Let's face it, they're beautiful animals and it's not nice (at least for me) to think of them being raised for something like fur or claws, but the pros in this case would greatly outweigh the cons - if we could stop poaching of wild tigers it would be worth it. No government policy will make people stop wanting the products that they want - this is why prohibitions are uniformly detrimental to societies where they're implemented.
Now, obviously this wouldn't work for all animals - pandas are notoriously hard to breed in captivity, for instance - but by doing something very simple: providing for a demand on the market, we could save an animal as amazing as the tiger from extinction in the wild.

h/t - the Institute for Humane Studies, who sent me this link as part of my readings for a free summer seminar I'll be attending in July.

x-posted to The Institute for Liberal Studies and Bureaucrash

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