Bookmark and ShareRupert Crilly is a researcher in Environmental Economics at nef

If anyone needed a wake-up call to the perilous state of biodiversity, there aren’t many statistics that hit home as hard as half of our closest relatives being in imminent danger of extinction. The IUCN has recently reported that 48% of all primate species are critically endangered. There remain about 3,300 simakobu monkeys in Indonesia, less than 300 Cross River gorillas in Nigeria and around 110 black crested gibbons in Asia. Madagascar holds less than 100 sportive lemurs, and Vietnam less than 70 golden-headed langurs. Conservation International has released similarly gloomy news on the critical threat to 25 of the most endangered primates and how-to’s on saving them. There are around 40,000 Orang-utans left, where their habitats are being rapidly destroyed for palm-oil production.

Primate and Bush-meat Trading
A blog over at Treehugger has done a good job at researching the bush-meat and pet trades. A 2004 FAO report found the bush-meat trade a massive component of both for subsistence and commercial trade. For example, the report found estimates that around 90% of Ghanaians eat bush-meat, totalling 385,000 metric tonnes per year. In Liberia, where 105,000 metric tonnes are consumed, bush-meat trade contributes around US$42m (estimated in 1991). Bush-meat contributes 1.4% to Sierra Leone’s GDP (1996). On top of this, Animal Defenders International has estimated the primate pet trade at US$12bn a year, where Europe is one of the world’s largest markets for wildlife and wildlife products.

Even considering- in fact, partly because of- the subsistence importance of bush-meat, this consumption is clearly unsustainable. A primary symptom of bad management of these resources is that, exacerbated by habitat loss, many of these species are threatened with extinction and still being hunted in the remainder of their natural range. But are industrialised countries doing any better? The figure below from the FAO shows fish balances across world regions:

It seems not. So what is to be done? Well, no big answers right now. But as a start, in a Nature article, Scholes and Biggs (2005) use a variety of different management scenarios to estimate an ‘intactness’ index of biodiversity. A graph of six different management approaches below show their impacts on biodiversity. The y-axis is the “average expert estimate of remaining fraction of pre-colonial population”.

In conserving biodiversity, clearly ‘protected’ is best. But for those of you who think ‘protected’ means non-use to humans, have a look here on how protective management can provide resources sustainably. Fishing around (<5km) a protected area of New England Coast provided 73% of the US catches of haddock. Without this fishery Closed Area stocks would probably be decimated.

If we want sustained development, better management of resources is needed over short-sighted consumption. There is a lot more to the issues than covered here, but there’s enough to say that management that respects the environment – even a ‘free’ environment – is far more likely to sustain our needs in the long-run. And the biggest issue of all is time. And, thankfully, the Tick has a thing or two to say about this as well.

“Time’s a-wasting and evil’s out there making hand-crafted mischief for the swap meet of villainy. And you can’t strike a good deal with evil. No matter how much you haggle. We don’t need to look for a bargain; goodness is cheap because it’s free, and free is as cheap as it gets. Cut. What was that pig about?”