As a natural resource economist, I appreciated the supply and demand framework in “Wildlife Apocalypse” (July/August 2018). The trade driving animal extinctions is complex, with legal, social, and economic dimensions, and the myth foundation underlying the problem provided readers with insights to what is driving the demand that threatens some endangered species. That purely legal solutions hardly work was made obvious.
The economist in me wanted a discussion of how economics—that created the problem—is also the best tool to protect these animals. While regulatory schemes have not proven effective in providing protection, economic ones based on giving local communities some sort of defined property rights in the wildlife populations, plus benefit-sharing so that those communities have a stake in preserving the wildlife, have proven to actually make a difference. Economic and free market solutions generally have the least unintended consequences; basic market-based approaches such as taxes and tradable quota systems have produced revenues that allow governments to develop protection programs or, better yet, give local communities revenue and an incentive to value protection.
The entire article was really one on applied resource economics. I understand the economic solutions can seem complex, but there are plenty of simple examples where the free market approach has turned around a declining wildlife population. A discussion of those would have made a very interesting article even more interesting.