NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Saving Tigers Through Market Incentives

February 17, 1998

Among wildlife conservationists, the use of market-based incentives to save endangered species is gaining ground. Experts suggest wild Asian tigers could be rescued from oblivion by turning them from a liability -- in the eyes of natives -- to an asset.

  • The wild tiger population once numbered more than 100,000, but only about 7,300 are left in Asia.
  • Conservationists conclude measures such as establishing government-run tiger reserves or banning hunting are failing.
  • At present, farmers in countries such as India, Nepal and Indonesia have a powerful incentive to kill the beasts, which frequently attack both people and livestock.
  • Adding to the incentive to kill is the fact that parts of a dead tiger command high prices on the black market.

Experts argue that local inhabitants must derive direct economic benefits from tigers living in the wild if the animals are to be saved. Here are some of their suggestions as to how this might be done:

  • After Nepal's government gave a local group land management rights within a certain area, the group promoted tourism by building nature trails for safaris and a tiger-viewing platform -- with the income from tourists going to three schools and a health clinic.
  • State-protected areas could be turned over to private ownership and management -- an approach that has worked well in Africa.
  • Limited trophy hunting could be allowed with the proceeds going to protection and conservation efforts.
  • Since tigers in captivity breed readily, their valuable parts could be used to satisfy Asian medicinal markets -- undercutting demand for wild tiger carcasses.

Source: Michael 't Sas-Rolfes (from a paper published by the Political Economy Research Center), "How to Save the Tiger," Wall Street Journal, February 17, 1998.


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