Would You Pay $11 to Save Every Animal on the Endangered Species List?

endangered species protectionIt's hard to argue against endangered species protection. With beautiful and majestic animals like California condors, water buffaloes and mountain gorillas facing oblivion, the cost of protecting habitats or cutting down on poaching seems negligible. On the other other hand, as opponents of the Endangered Species Act have so often argued, when the lives and livelihoods of workers are on the line, the cost -- and value -- of endangered species protection often seems much higher.

When balanced against the economic and social costs of closing a logging site or a fish hatchery, some argue, it's worth asking how much wildlife preservation actually costs -- and how much it's worth.

Recently, a study published in Science attempted to answer the question. Using bird preservation as a model, the study's authors determined that it would cost roughly $80 billion per year, or $11.42 for every person on the planet, to "lower the extinction risk" for every species that is currently endangered or threatened. The majority -- $76 billion -- would go toward establishing and protecting habitats, while the rest would go toward more direct programs to combat extinction.

While this funding wouldn't immediately save all species, it would effectively move each endangered animal up one step on the protection list. All the animals on the "critically endangered" list would shift to the "endangered" list, all the "endangered" animals to the "vulnerable" list, all the "vulnerable" animals to the "near threatened" list, and so on.

For Americans, this cost is negligible: $11.42 represents less than two hours of minimum wage work. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, working together, could pick up the entire $80 billion price tag for one year and still have $32 billion left over. On a global level, however, $11.42 is actually a lot of money: In Mongolia, home of the critically endangered Amur leopard, it represents 14% of a minimum wage worker's monthly salary. In Rwanda, habitat of the critically endangered mountain gorilla, it represents almost five days work for a high-paid worker.

To further complicate matters, given the location of many endangered species, the high costs of maintaining nature preserves and protected habitats would fall on countries, like Rwanda and Mongolia, that are already economically fragile. In some cases, countries could benefit from protecting their species; Rwanda, for example, has developed a robust eco-tourism industry that revolves around its mountain gorillas. For less-beloved animals, like the critically endangered African wild ass, eco-tourism is a harder sell. And given that the monthly salary for a civil servant in Eritrea, where the African wild ass lives, is only $24, it seems unlikely that the country will be willing to sacrifice economic growth for conservation.

As the Science study noted, raising the necessary funds for endangered species preservation would "require conservation funding to increase by at least an order of magnitude." In layman's terms, that's in the neighborhood of 10 times as much as we spend on it now -- a tall order, especially for a worldwide economic system that has spent the last few years teetering on the edge of collapse. Given the increasing endangerment of worldwide economic security, it's worth asking if the majority of the world's population has the energy -- or money -- to address the needs of other species.

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Banking Services 101

Understand your bank's services, and how to get the most from them

View Course »

Timing Your Spending

How to pay less by changing when you purchase.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:
Tristan Tandberg

Here is one of the downsides of the Endangered Species Act

November 12 2012 at 10:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Nature has this remarkable feature, called "survival of the fittest." Some species fade away and become extinct, while others adapt and flourish. While it makes people feel good to think they are saving species, all they are doing is upsetting the balance.

October 31 2012 at 10:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Plummer, Joseph

Now here's the real question I have, what would an endangered spices do with money? What means of carrying money do they have...? none, Oh, we could build sanctuaries for the poor animals, we already do, we call it a Zoo. note how lots of Zoos are closing because of lack of funds to keep them open and feed the animals. donate to a Zoo instead. And now, for my problem, Pets, well cared for Pets, that end up as " dumped Pets", I'll bet I end up with at least 3-4 cats every Fall, right about the time the children go off to college, along with the occasional dog, how do I know, by the collar marks on the fur before they were dumped. One beautiful all white persian cat, declawed, fixed, at my door, starving, still see the collar mark, I would love to catch the idiot that dumps a pet in the countryside, bind him up and cut his feet open to attract the numerous Coyotes in the area so he would get an idea of what happens to those dumped pets. ask the humaine society how many they get, and end up destroying. it's a nightmare.

October 31 2012 at 7:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It wouldn't work. With number of donations and that much money, some scammer would get the money.

October 31 2012 at 1:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As long as the human population keeps increasing, the animal population will continue its decline.

October 31 2012 at 1:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to talari's comment
Plummer, Joseph

that's not necessarily true, fact is, more wildlife is increasing because people are moving out into the former habitat areas. creating havens from hunters. Because of the Laws they pass, the deer population in the urban areas has exploded. Coyotes have adapted, a recent report has shown that over 300+ coyotes have been caught and relocated from the City of Chicago. in a short period. mind you, in an area that a hundred years ago never saw one. Remember the Alaskan Pipeline, the enviromental wackos said would interfere with the caribou herds, sure, the herds have more than doubled insize because the pipes running oil become warm and the animals are milled around the warmth and.. well, the population has also exploded, doubled if not tripled in size.

October 31 2012 at 7:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I like the one from the parrot rescue about how much some of the CEO's make. just sent in my $100.00.
I went to their web site
a great looking web site and a great looking rescue operation.
Better to donate to them than some election and they are a tax deductable donation

October 30 2012 at 11:21 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

the greed and self centered hollow hole that capitolist americans fill with money is trajic . the blindness to the ilution of the capitolist system is so pathetic. like a mindless space rock hitting the planet killing fro no other reason but being so f n stupit as to not be able to figure out anouther way

October 30 2012 at 9:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dsmithsfamily's comment

Before you call an entire country "stupit", it may be a good idea to use the spell check button, genius.

October 31 2012 at 6:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
welcome butch


October 30 2012 at 8:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


October 30 2012 at 8:11 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ga7smi's comment

Another cheap schmuck.

October 31 2012 at 6:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Pam Baker

My son and daughter in law have been out of work almost a year. The both work part time jobs and still aren't able to make ends meet. I choose to give to my family instead of giving to organizations that are about animals and helping children overseas etc etc. My own Granddaughter needs school supplies, clothes, shoes and small things that only kids need to be reasonably happy. A halloween costume maybe or money for a school field trip? I'm sure lots of people out there will understand.

October 30 2012 at 7:57 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply