Why Did the Protected Areas Fail the Giant Panda?: The economics of conserving endangered species in developing countries

Timothy M. Swanson & Andreas Kontoleon

Published: December 2000

Most biodiversity lies within the developing world, and much of it is under threat because of forces for change within these countries. In order to be effective, biodiversity conservation must be viewed as a development opportunity, rather than as a constraint on development. This implies management for the purpose of harnessing all of the values of biodiversity and the organization of national management to make this possible. This general proposition is illustrated in a case study demonstrating how one celebrated species, the Giant Panda, is able to generate substantial flows of revenues, thereby creating the incentives for the conservation of its own habitat. The study focuses on the Wolong Panda Reserve, one of the most important panda reserves, located in Sichuan Provinces China. The study demonstrates that the proper management of the Giant Panda Reserves in Sichuan province should be able to generate an estimated $100 million per annum for the Wolong Reserve. This stands in contrast to the $250 thousand currently being allocated to reserve management. If a small proportion of this value were appropriated and then channeled to the local peoples, this would dramatically alter the incomes of hee local communities and their perceptions of the value of the Giant Panda and its reserves. The “opportunity cost” of allowing the continuing demise of the species, by reason of the continuation of conflicting uses and activities within the Reserve, is the loss of these natural values.

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