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Information, wildlife valuation, conservation: experiments and policy.


Wild biodiversity decline is of global policy concern (McNeely and Scherr, 2003, Ch. 2), and economists have given increasing attention to it. Nevertheless, economists remain uncertain of the influence of the public's knowledge of individual wildlife species on the level of public demand for funding conservation programs for these species. This article uses an experimental Australian case study to identify ways in which information about species influences the willingness of the public to support their conservation.

Specifically, this study examines changes in the stated demand of a sample of the Australian public for funding conservation programs for 24 Australian vertebrate species. These wildlife species are drawn from higher order taxa (mammals, birds, and reptiles), and most occur only in tropical Australia. Their conservation status varies. Half of the focal species are listed in the IUCN Red List (IUCN, 2004a) as threatened (see Table 1). The chosen set of species is of global interest. For example, Australia has the eighth highest number of threatened vertebrate species (terrestrial and marine) globally, and the US the fourth highest (IUCN, 2004b). But if the amniotes are considered, Australia has the highest number of these species under threat among all developed nations (IUCN, 2004b). Many of Australia's threatened species occur only in its tropics, which are inhabited by relatively few Australians, and consequently most people may be relatively unfamiliar with species occurring there. The likelihood of this unfamiliarity was a factor influencing the choice of species for this study.

Economists are aware that the extent of respondents' knowledge about environmental goods significantly influences their stated demand for these and, by implication, actual demand. Therefore, ensuring that respondents have "adequate" information about the goods they are to value is considered to be an important aspect of contingent valuation (Carson, 2000) and of other methods involving stated preference. For example, Mitchell and Carson (1989, p. 247) claim that inadequacies in information are "among the most important and most problematic sources of error in contingent valuation." Bergstrom et al. (1990) argued that providing information about the quality of the environmental good can increase the reliability of stated willingness to pay (WTP) estimates. Blomquist and Whitehead (1998) found that information provided about the quality of an environmental resource significantly influences WTP, especially among incompletely informed respondents. Samples et al. (1986) showed that WTP for conservation of different wildlife species varies with their types of characteristics revealed to respondents, particularly their physical appearances and endangered status. Tkac (1998) found that the reported endangerment status of species is a relatively more important influence on WTP than suggested by Samples et al. (1986), and that individuals who are already relatively well informed are less subject to increases in WTP as a result of information provision than the less informed.

Elicitation of preferences is more complicated than originally thought by some economists (e.g., Randall, 1986) who hypothesize that individuals have pre-existing true preferences that merely have to be elicited by the researcher. Complexity occurs because, as Spash (2002) points out and as the theories of Ajzen et al. (1996) and Ajzen and Driver (1992) suggest, communication of information provides knowledge and is preference-forming. Consequently, if different sets of correct information about a commodity (in this case, wildlife species) are communicated, different stated preferences can emerge. Furthermore, preferences for commodities about which individuals are more ignorant are more sensitive to information provision. This is consistent with the results of Tkac (1998) and Bateman and Mawby (2004, p. 49). The authors are able to test this hypothesis for the wildlife species considered in this article, and they consider the type of information that is particularly influential in altering respondents' stated demands for conservation programs.

This article is set out as follows. First, the methodology is outlined and the reasons for the research approaches adopted are explained. Results are then reported and discussed. Implications of the results for the economics of conservation and for wildlife conservation policy are subsequently presented.


A. Choice of Wildlife Species for Evaluation

Participants in the experimental surveys evaluated 24 Australian wildlife species (see Table 1) belonging to the mammal, bird, and reptile taxa. These are taxa in which Australia has a high number of threatened species by international comparison (IUCN, 2004b). Of the focal species chosen, half are listed in the IUCN Red List (IUCN, 2004a) as threatened and have varied degrees of endangerment. This variation will enable some inferences to be drawn about the influence of respondents' knowledge of the endangerment of species on their demand for conservation programs for species.

Furthermore, the species were selected on the assumption that some would be initially well known, and that others would be poorly known, if known at all, by respondents. All the species occur in Queensland, and the majority are confined to the Queensland tropics. Most do not occur in southeast Queensland, where the survey was conducted. Some cannot be seen in zoos (e.g., northern hairy-nosed wombat) or are rarely seen in these (mahogany glider). Others are common in zoos (crocodiles) or are often seen in the wild in southeast Queensland (kookaburras, Australian magpies). Table 1 identifies those species that are currently distributed in tropical Queensland only (or virtually so).

B. Choice of Place for Sampling and Selection of Sample

For several reasons, the sample of respondents was drawn from Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. First, it was advantageous both logistically and cost-wise, because the researchers were located in Brisbane. Second, Brisbane is below the Australian tropics, so it was thought likely that most Brisbane residents may not be very familiar with tropical species present in their state. Third, responsibility for wildlife conservation under the Australian federal system is primarily a state matter, even though the Australian federal government has increased its powers in that respect as a result of clauses in the Australian Constitution that make the Australian government responsible for international relations and trade (refer to the EPBC Act 1999, DEH, 1999). Unlike many previous studies evaluating wildlife species and WTP (Samples et al., 1986; DeKay and McClelland, 1996; Gunnthorsdottir, 2001), the species selected for study are native to the state where the survey participants reside. This may add realism to the study.

It could be argued that this urban sample is not fully representative of the whole of Queensland, but the majority of Queenslanders live in urban areas in the southeast of Queensland, concentrated around the Brisbane area. Furthermore, it is not so important to have a representative Queensland sample, because estimating population values for Queensland is not the aim of this investigation. Rather, it is to analyze how a sample of the public responds to a change in information available to them. Nevertheless, the sample is drawn so that it is not concentrated on a particular socioeconomic group, for example, university students, as some similar studies have been.

C. Selecting the Sample

The sample was obtained in 2002 as a result of 1500 letterbox drops distributed purposively in different suburban areas of Brisbane with varying socioeconomic attributes. To reduce self-selection bias, the purpose of the survey was not revealed. Potential participants were merely told that the survey would be about the conservation and use of Australian tropical resources, and that there would be a token payment of $20 for those attending a survey session, a chance to win $200, refreshments, and a free public lecture as well as free parking at the University of Queensland (all dollar values mentioned in this article refer to the Australian dollar). They were told of the proposed sessions (five alternatives) arranged during the weekend as well as in the working week. Session times were chosen so as to facilitate attendance by those with work or other fixed commitments. Those with an interest were requested

to telephone a facilitator, and the facilitator selected 204 participants from this group so that the age distribution of the whole sample was similar to that of Brisbane based on the Australian Census, for persons 18 years of age and older.

D. The Conduct of the Experiment

The survey questions were pre-tested on a group of university students and adjusted for greater clarity. Participants in the final sample came in five groups of about 40 and, at the start of each session, were given a questionnaire (Survey I) in order to determine their initial knowledge of the focal species and their valuation of these. Completion of the questionnaires took approximately one hour, and participants then had a break for refreshments. This was followed by a lecture by the Curator of Vertebrates of the Queensland Museum focusing principally on the mahogany glider, which he had rediscovered.

Following this lecture, participants were given a take-home booklet together with the questionnaire for Survey II. They were asked to read this booklet before completing and returning the second questionnaire (which had overlapping questions with the first one) in a self-addressed, postage-paid envelope provided. The booklet contained color photographs of the focal species and information on their appearance, distribution, life history, and conservation status. Approximately the same amount of information was provided on each species. The authors attempted to provide balanced information in a non-emotive manner. However, they cannot completely rule out some influences on preferences in light of the observation by Spash (2002).

Those who initially failed to return Survey II were alerted by phone. Eventually all Survey II forms were returned. Those who returned the forms were given two free entry tickets to the David Fleay Wildlife Park, which contains several rare wildlife species from tropical Queensland.

E. Method of Measuring the Participants' Knowledge of the Focal Species

In Survey I, participants were asked if they knew each of the focal species. If they responded "No," this answer was assigned a weight of zero. If respondents answered "Yes" for a species, they were asked to specify whether they regarded their knowledge of it to be (i) very good, (ii) good, or (iii) poor. Using this Likert-type scale, a weight of zero was assigned for no knowledge, 1 for "poor," 2 for "good," and 3 for "very good." These weights were then used to calculate the respondents' average level of stated knowledge of each of the species i. Thus, where [r.sub.i] is the relative frequency of [x.sub.i], the stated level of knowledge of all respondents, the knowledge index is k = [summation][r.sub.i][x.sub.i]. The same approach was adopted for measuring the level of knowledge stated by respondents in Survey II.

Note that this method of measuring knowledge is to some extent arbitrary, as it depends on the judgment of individual respondents, and their measures of the extent of knowledge are to some extent subjective. For instance, respondents with the same degree of knowledge could rate the extent of their knowledge differently. Furthermore, one may wonder if the average index of knowledge should be based on linear or non-linear values. These problems, however, are less serious than might be imagined, because the knowledge index is used only in an ordinal or qualitative manner, not as a cardinal measure. It is used as a relative indicator of knowledge about the different species and the direction of change in that knowledge after increased information is provided to participants.

F. Comparative Willingness to Fund Projects to Conserve the Focal Species

The same "fixed-pie" questions were asked of each of the participants in Survey I and Survey II to determine their comparative demand for conservation projects for each of the species, and to determine variations in demand between the surveys as a result of information provision and variation in participants' knowledge of the species. The format of the questions was the same for each of the taxa and was similar to the following one for reptiles:
 Suppose that you are given Aus$1,000, but you can only use it to
 donate funds to support the conservation of the reptiles in Australia
 listed below. Suppose that a reliable organization were to carry out
 the conservation work and your money would supplement other funds for
 this purpose. What percentage of your Aus$1,000 would you contribute
 for the conservation of each of the reptiles listed below? Your total
 should add up to 100%.

Reptile (%)

Freshwater Crocodiles
Hawksbill Sea Turtles (a marine species with a beautiful shell)
Northern Long-necked (Freshwater) Turtles
Taipan Snakes (also known as Fierce Snakes)

A similar format had been used by Samples et al. (1986), DeKay and McClelland (1996), Tkac (1998), and Gunnthorsdottir (2001). This approach is useful for signaling comparative changes in demand for projects to conserve the individual species as knowledge of respondents improves (Samples et al., 1986, p. 309). Furthermore, it reduces income effects on choice (Gunnthorsdottir, 2001, p. 207) and limits the likely extent of strategic bias because participants are forced to engage in substitution between the species. (1) It is also relatively easy for respondents to follow.

The payment vehicle is a donation. The NOAA panel (Arrow et al., 1993) recommended that willingness-to-pay questions be based on a referendum vote. Nevertheless, it is acknowledged that a referendum-type format is not always practical, and that other payment mechanisms such as donations to a fund are acceptable (Champ et al., 2002, p. 592). Furthermore, when doubts occur about whether the funds will be used for the cause proposed, donations to a fund dedicated to a particular cause are considered by respondents to be more credible than the referendum mechanism (Champ et al., 2002, p. 599). The donation payment vehicle therefore is appropriate in this case.


A. Variations in Stated Degrees of Knowledge of the Wildlife Species Considered

Figure 1 shows the relationship between the indices of participants' initial knowledge of the species ([k.sub.1]) obtained from Survey I and the indices of their subsequent knowledge (after information provision) ([k.sub.2]) obtained from Survey II. The largest increases in the knowledge indices occurred for wildlife species that were initially more poorly known than the others. This is consistent with Tkac (1998). Nevertheless, the knowledge level of the initially poorly known species (except the mahogany glider) remained lower than those of the initially better known species. The mahogany glider is an "outlier" because it was the main focus of the free public presentation during the survey sessions. Hence, participants had extra exposure to it compared with the other species.

The dispersion of respondents' level of knowledge of the focal species fell substantially in Survey II. In Survey I, the knowledge indices ranged from 0.07 to 1.66, whereas in Survey II it ranged from 1.40 to 2.07. The variance and coefficient of variation of the knowledge indices also decreased greatly. The results indicate that the respondents' degree of uncertainty about the species diminished, and that their knowledge of the species had become more even. On the whole in Survey I, the better known species are those that occur around Brisbane (e.g., the Australian magpie), are popular (the koala), are common in zoos (the southern cassowary), or are perceived to be dangerous (the crocodiles). Species that were the least known are those confined to the tropics of Queensland, especially small areas of it, or are smaller in size and relatively innocuous (e.g., the eastern pebble mound mouse, eclectus parrot, and mahogany glider). The degree of increase in the stated knowledge of the mahogany glider in Survey II stands out noticeably from those for other species. This is not only a result of the emphasis given to it in the presentation during the survey sessions, but also a result of it being poorly known initially.

The mean index of knowledge rose for each taxon between surveys and significantly at the 95% confidence level using a paired t-test ([t.sub.reptiles] = 2.89, p = 0.04; [t.sub.mammals] = 4.07, p = 0.004; [t.sub.birds] = 4.58, p = 0.001). Differences in mean level of knowledge between taxa within surveys, on the other hand, are not statistically significant. The increased evenness of the respondents' knowledge of the species in Survey II is indicated by a fall in the variance in knowledge levels for each taxon between surveys and reductions in all the coefficients of variation (see Table 2).


B. The Relationship between Stated Degree of Knowledge of the Species and Allocation of Funds to Programs to Conserve These

The relationship between the average percentage of available funds respondents are willing to allocate to each species and their index of stated knowledge of the species can be conveniently illustrated by scatter diagrams. This relationship is shown in Figures 2 to 4 for each taxon in Survey 1 (given the participant's initial knowledge of the focal species) and in Figures 5 to 7 for Survey II (after the participant's knowledge of all species had increased). Visual inspection suggests that as participants' knowledge of the species increases, the percentage of available funds that they are willing to allocate to the conservation of the species becomes more dispersed. Thus, with more "balanced" knowledge, participants become more discriminating in allocating funds to support conservation programs for individual species.







Two types of concrete evidence favor the above hypothesis: (1) for each taxa, the dispersion of conservation funding allocations for each of the species is greater in Survey II than in Survey I (and the difference statistically significant); (2) when poorly known species in Survey I became better known in Survey II, the dispersion of the allocation of conservation funds to these species rose significantly.

Table 3 summarizes the first result and provides statistics on the dispersion of conservation funds in both surveys. Note that if all species in each taxon received equal funding support, the mean percentage allocation values for reptiles, birds, and mammals should be 20%, 11.11%, and 10%, respectively in both surveys, but due to rounding errors they are slightly higher in the calculation in Survey I. Nevertheless, the basic result holds. The dispersion of funds is much higher in Survey II than in Survey I and therefore is positively associated with the provision of knowledge about the focal species.

If the distribution of funding for the poorly known species in Survey I (those for which knowledge indices are below the average in Survey I) is compared with that for the same set of species in Survey II, the results shown in Table 4 emerge. Large increases in the variance and coefficient of variation of the lesser-known species are observed as a result of increased knowledge about them. Further-more, the average allocation of conservation funds for the initially more poorly known species increased for each taxon with more knowledge of the species and, consequently, average funding for the initially better known species declined when extra information was supplied for all species. However, even though the difference in these means is marked, a statistically significant difference was not established, most likely due to the low number of observations in each case.

For comparative purposes, Table 5 provides the same statistics as in Table 4 but for species that were initially better known (those with knowledge indices above the average in Survey I for each taxon). Observe that with increased knowledge, the average allocation of funds for conservation of the initially better known species falls within each taxon. Furthermore, the allocation of funds for the conservation of initially better known species can be seen to be less sensitive to knowledge provision than for the more poorly known species. This is indicated by smaller differences in the variances and coefficients of variation in Tables 4 and 5 when the results for Survey I and Survey II are compared. This is consistent with the observation of Tkac (1998) that contingent valuations of species are likely to be less sensitive to the provision of extra information when individuals are more knowledgeable about the species.


Large errors can occur in the comparative funding of poorly known sets of species when the public's stated preferences are used to guide such funding. This is because the dispersion of preference for funding the conservation of species rises considerably when knowledge about the species is increased. Furthermore, gross underfunding of conservation of some species in the poorly known set can occur compared with what a more informed public would demand. Because uncertainty about the value of the species in the poorly known set is large, these should be given some preference in public funding to keep options open and be given more conservation funding than would be demanded by a public that happened to be poorly informed (cf. Krutilla, 1967).

Endangered or critically endangered species are liable to be much disadvantaged in competing for conservation funds when the public is poorly informed about them. Table 1 indicates that five of the focal species studied here are classified in the IUCN Red List as endangered or critically endangered (IUCN, 2004a). Initial knowledge of all but one (the northern hairy-nosed wombat) was below the average level for each of their taxa. Increased information dramatically increased the stated allocation of funds for the conservation of all those endangered species for which knowledge was below the average, and for the northern hairy-nosed wombat too, but by a smaller amount.

In the case of the endangered birds, the allocation for the Gouldian finch rose from about 10% to 18%, and for the golden-shouldered parrot from about 11% to just under 16%, when extra information was provided. In the mammal group, willingness to allocate funds for conservation of the endangered mahogany glider rose from just under 12% to about 19%. Only one of the reptile species, the hawksbill turtle, is listed as endangered by the IUCN and is listed as critically endangered. Support for conservation funding for this initially poorly known species also increased greatly with increased information, from 34% to 48% of the allocation.

Inspection of Figures 5 to 7 reveals that support for funding for the conservation of the endangered and critically endangered species obtained top priority when participants were better informed. Conversely, funding of these species had lower priority when individuals were more poorly informed, and in the case of birds and mammals were outranked by at least one species not classified by IUCN as endangered or critically endangered (compare Figures 2 to 4).

It is widely recognized that the willingness of individuals to pay for the conservation of species depends upon the attributes that individuals associate with them, but opinions differ about the relative importance of and the sensitivity of WTP for conservation to these different characteristics. However, two factors have been emphasized as major influences on WTP for conservation of a species: (1) the extent to which individuals believe it to be endangered; and (2) the degree to which individuals feel empathy with (derive utility from or like) the species (Samples et al., 1986; DeKay and McClelland, 1996; Tkac, 1998; Gunnthorsdottir, 2001; Tisdell et al., in press). Researchers disagree about the relative influence of these factors on stated willingness to pay for conservation. Tkac (1998) and Tisdell et al. (2004) found that knowledge about the degree of endangerment of species has the most influence on willingness to contribute funds for their conservation. On the other hand, Gunnthorsdottir (2001) found physical appearance (the extent to which species seemed to be humanoid) to be a major influence via its effect on the likeability of species. This accords with the findings of Metrick and Weitzman (1996, 1998), who did not find comparative endangerment to be a significant influence on government funding of conservation programs for endangered species in the United States.

In this study, following Survey I, extra information was provided to respondents about the conservation status (degree of endangerment) of each of the species and their appearance, as well as some of their ecological attributes. When the respondents become more aware that a species was endangered or critically endangered, they increased their proposed allocation of funds for its conservation by a large amount if their knowledge about the species was low initially. Hence, the proposed allocation of funds for endangered or critically endangered species came to dominate the allocations in Survey II but did not do so for most taxa in Survey I. This suggests that knowledge about the degree of endangerment of wildlife species plays a crucial role in determining comparative demand for programs to conserve wild-life species, even though this demand is subject to a range of influences. Table 6 lists some of these.

In the shorter term, variations in factors 1, 2, and 3 may be of greater importance than 4 and 5, but in the longer term, variations in factors 4 and 5 assume more importance. Furthermore, interdependence between the variables is possible. Ethics and morality are subject to social influences, and so is the perceived likeability of species. Ethical factors may influence the degree of weight placed on funding the conservation of threatened species. In addition, recipients' judgments about the reliability of information provided could also influence their valuations, and this can even be influenced by the appearance of the person supplying the information (Bateman and Mawby, 2004).

In providing balanced and reliable information about wildlife species, it seems appropriate to give most attention to those factors that have the greatest influence on WTP for the conservation of species. The results suggest that, in the shorter term, this is the degree of endangerment of the relevant individual species. Demand for programs to conserve an endangered species will be much lower when its status is not well known than when it is better known.

Although a disproportionate amount of conservation effort has been focused on likeable charismatic megafauna (big mammals and attractive birds) as opposed to other taxa (Metrick and Weitzman, 1996, 1998; May, 2002), the disliked or poorly liked reptile species (e.g., taipan snakes and crocodile species in this study) were nonetheless allocated some conservation funding by respondents even though they are not under threat. The decision to allocate funds to such species may be an ethical one involving signaling (compare Kotchen and Reiling, 2000; Spash, 2000, p. 213). This is indicated by the following sample of comments by respondents.
 "Each [species] has as much right to exist as any other and each has a
 role/s in the ecosystem."

 "All species have a purpose and equal right to survive regardless of
 human attitude towards them."

 "Each species has an important place in overall scheme of things."

It emerges that a demand exists for saving wildlife species about which individuals have little or no knowledge, even though greater knowledge about focal species enables respondents to be more discriminating in their willingness to fund their conservation. According to Boyle (1989, p. 61), improved knowledge helps respondents better understand the good being valued, and so reduces randomness in their valuation. Nevertheless, the substantial funds allocated for poorly known species suggest that strong public demand exists to conserve as yet undiscovered species. The results support the conjecture of Bishop and Welsh (1992, p. 415) that existence values exist for obscure or previously unknown wildlife species, and indicate the need to qualify Randall's (1986, p. 15) statement that "individuals place no value on resources [such as wildlife species] of whose existence or usefulness they are entirely unaware."

Nonetheless, in the absence of any knowledge of the existence of species or their possible existence, individuals will not be in a position to take political action to conserve them. Because, for many wildlife species, non-use values are the major component of their total economic value (Stevens et al., 1991; Fredman and Boman, 1996; Bandara and Tisdell, 2003; Tisdell and Wilson, 2004), (2) they are to a large extent pure public goods, and their provision is subject to market failure. Conserving them, as a rule, will require public or collective action, and therefore some knowledge of their existence, potential or otherwise.

Our experimental results show that variation in knowledge affects individuals' WTP for the conservation of wildlife species, and that distortions of information can "corrupt" valuations of species by individuals. Provision of "balanced" information to individuals can help to reduce valuation distortions, but balance is a matter of judgment. As Spash (2002) stated, interactive influences between the evaluator and the respondent can rarely be eliminated. Thus a phenomenon akin to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in physics may occur (Heisenberg, 1930).

The stated willingness of individuals to contribute funds to programs to conserve species does not measure the economic value individuals place on the existence of individual species, that is, the maximum amount of their WTP to keep a species in existence. However, the more endangered a species becomes, the closer should WTP for its conservation approach the economic value of keeping the species in existence (cf. Bandara and Tisdell, 2005).

While the economic value of the existence of a species should be independent of its conservation status, the willingness of individuals to contribute funds for conserving species is not. Other things being equal, the more endangered a species, the more willing individuals are to contribute to conservation efforts to save it, because as it becomes more endangered, greater and more urgent effort is required to conserve it. Up to a point, this is rational from a policy point of view.

In order to underline the difference between the economic value of the existence of species and willingness to fund programs to conserve species, consider the results for the red kangaroo and the northern hairy-nosed wombat. The red kangaroo receives a low allocation of funds in both Survey I and Survey II in comparison with the northern hairy-nosed wombat (see Figures 3 and 6). This does not mean that the economic value of the existence of the red kangaroo is less than for this wombat. The red kangaroo is correctly perceived to be much less endangered and much less in need of conservation effort than the northern hairy-nosed wombat. If the red kangaroo should become highly endangered, individuals are likely to put an even higher value on action to save it than the northern hairy-nosed wombat.


Wildlife valuation is an important component of rational economic choice about policies for conserving wildlife species. This article confirms findings of previous studies that provision of information about species and subsequent changes in individuals' knowledge substantially alter individuals' willingness to contribute funds for species' conservation. Strong support was found for conserving species that are unknown or comparatively poorly known, and the policy argument of Krutilla (1967) was found to be relevant.

Balanced information provision led to greater discrimination in the willingness-to-pay allocation decisions to conserve species. However, communication of extra information need not result in better decision-making. If the information provided is selective (though true), biases can distort decision-making. For example, providing more information about one species than others may result in undervaluation of the latter.

However, whether communicated information is balanced is a matter of judgment. Even with care, the interviewer may influence the values of the observed. Furthermore, the reliability (repeatability) of contingent valuation has been a concern as well (see for example Reiling et al., 1990; Carson et al., 1997). Would two independent contingent valuation exercises about the same environmental good, having, as they would, different information contents, elicit acceptably similar valuations? Which valuation should a policymaker rely on? The embedding problem (Kahneman and Knetsch, 1992) also raises concerns, and Gregory et al. (1993) see contingent valuation as more of a preference formation process than one of value elicitation.

This article warns that, from a policy point of view, one must be wary of using willingness to contribute to schemes to conserve species of wildlife to measure economic value of the existence of species. Such payments usually reflect the degree of urgency for taking conservation action. While common species at no risk of extinction may be highly valued, individuals may be willing to contribute little to finance schemes to conserve these because little or no need exists for such contributions. Information about species' endangerment is especially important in influencing willingness to pay for schemes to conserve species.

In countries such as the US, Canada, and Australia, having a large land mass with sparse human populations in remote areas, such as in Alaska in the US and the northern tropics in Australia, wildlife species in these remote areas tend to be less well known by most of the human population than wildlife in denser areas of human habitation. This can affect the distribution of funds for wildlife conservation. The extent of biodiversity (such as diversity of species) in remote areas may be underestimated by the public, and support for the conservation of individual species may be less focused than in areas of higher human habitation, because of poor knowledge of species in remote regions. If the extent of species diversity in remote regions is poorly known compared with that in settled areas, public support for conservation in remote areas is likely to be less than would be desired if the public were better informed. Thus, there is a risk that conservation of species in remote areas will be underfunded, and/or that development may be over-encouraged at the expense of wildlife conservation. More generally, when the public's knowledge of a set of wildlife species is poor, it seems appropriate for policymakers to place more weight on the conservation of these species than is demanded by the public.

An argument exists for policymakers to provide more support for the conservation of poorly known wildlife species than is demanded by the public. This is mainly because the quasi-option value of conserving a wildlife species having a poorly known degree of endangerment is particularly high. This follows because the public's WTP for the conservation of individual wildlife species seems to be a strictly convex function of measures of their endangerment, such as the extent to which their population falls below a "safe" level (cf. Bandara and Tisdell, 2005). (3)


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*Research for this article benefited from a grant of the Australian Research Council, and the authors are grateful to Hemanath Swarna Nantha for his research assistance. This is a revision of an article presented at the WEAI 79th Annual Conference in Vancouver, and the authors thank session attendees for their feedback, especially Anna Straton.

Tisdell: Professor, School of Economics, The University of Queensland, Brisbane QLD 4072, Australia. E-mail

Wilson: Lecturer, School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology, GPO Box 2434, Brisbane QLD 4001, Australia. E-mail


WTP: Willingness to pay

1. Some writers suggest that the scope for using contingent valuation methods is limited by the presence of lexicographic or totemic valuations (Getzner, 2005, p. 27), but there is no evidence of this being a problem in the particular study reported on here.

2. Total economic value is often divided into economic use value and non-use value or passive value, and these categories are subdivided again. For more information on the basic concepts involved, see for example Pearce (1993), Pearce and Moran (1994), or Bateman et al. (2002, pp. 28-31).

3. To be more specific, if f(x) represents individuals' willingness to pay for conservation of a species where x is a proxy for the degree of endangerment of the species, and if f(x) is strictly convex, then E[f(x)] - f(E[x]) > 0 where E indicates expected or mean values. This difference can be used to represent the extra amount that individuals would be prepared to pay to conserve the focal species if they were better informed about its endangerment than initially. For proof of this mathematical inequality, see Theorem 90 in Hardy et al. (1934, p. 74). This sum tends to be larger the poorer the initial state of knowledge or the greater is the degree of their uncertainty about the species, because there is then greater scope for learning.
TABLE 1 List of Tropical Australian Wildlife Species Covered in This
Study, Their Conservation Status, and General Location

Species (Location and Abbreviations) Scientific Name List Status*

Dugong (D) Dugong dugon VU
Eastern pebble-mound Pseudomys patrius VU
 mouse ([dagger]) (Em)
Koala (K) Phascolarctos LR/nt
Mahogany glider ([dagger]) (Mg) Petaurus gracilis EN
Northern bettong ([dagger]) (Nb) Bettongia tropica EN
Northern hairy-nosed Lasiorhinus krefftii CR
 wombat ([dagger]) (Nw)
Northern quoll ([dagger]) (Nq) Dasyurus hallucatus LR/nt
Red kangaroo (Rk) Macropus rufus --
Tree kangaroo ([dagger]) (Tk) Dendrolagus LR/nt

Australian magpie (Am) Gymnorhina tibicen --
Brolga (B) Grus rubicundas --
Eclectus parrot ([dagger]) (Ep) Eclectus roratus --
Golden bowerbird ([dagger]) (Gb) Prionodura --
Golden-shouldered Psephotus EN
 parrot ([dagger]) (Gp) chrysopterygius
Gouldian finch ([dagger]) (Gf) Erythrura gouldiae EN
Laughing kookaburra (Kb) Dacelo novaeguineae --
Palm cockatoo ([dagger]) (Pc) Probosciger --
Red-tailed black cockatoo (Bc) Calyptorhynchus --
Southern cassowary ([dagger]) (Scw) Casuarius casuarius VU

Freshwater crocodile ([dagger]) (Fc) Crocodylus johstoni --
Hawksbill turtle ([dagger]) (Ht) Eretmochelys CR
Northern long-necked Chelodina rugosa --
 turtle ([dagger]) (Nt)
Saltwater crocodile ([dagger]) (Sc) Crocodylus porosus --
Taipan snake ([dagger]) (Ts) Oxyuranus --

*LR/nt = lower risk/near threatened; VU = vulnerable; EN = endangered;
CR = critically endangered (IUCN, 2004a).
([dagger]) Although all listed species occur in tropical Queensland,
those marked occur virtually only in its tropics. Unmarked species are
also present in sub-tropical Queensland, and most are relatively common

TABLE 2 Mean Values of Knowledge Indices and Their Dispersion between

Survey I
Taxa [k.sub.1] [[sigma].sup.2] C.V.

Reptiles 1.15 0.21 40.31%
Mammals 1.02 0.41 62.60%
Birds 0.95 0.37 64.03%
All the above 1.02 0.33 56.40%

Survey II
Taxa [k.sub.2] [[sigma].sup.2] C.V.

Reptiles 1.60 0.01 7.63%
Mammals 1.67 0.05 13.77%
Birds 1.56 0.04 13.62%
All the above 1.61 0.04 12.72%

k = mean of knowledge index.
[[sigma].sup.2] = variance.
C.V. = the coefficient of variation (standard deviation/mean).
[n.sub.reptiles] = 5, [n.sub.mammals] = 9, [n.sub.birds] = 10.

TABLE 3 Statistics of Percentage Allocation of Funds in Survey I and
Survey II for Conservation of Wildlife Species, by Taxon

Percentage allocation (Survey I)
Taxa [bar.y.sub.1] [[sigma].sup.2] C.V.

Reptiles 20.56 93.61 47.05%
Mammals 11.48 5.81 21.01%
Birds 10.27 2.87 16.48%

Percentage allocation (Survey II)
Taxa [bar.y.sub.2] [[sigma].sup.2] C.V

Reptiles 20.04 265.26 81.29%
Mammals 11.11 14.58 34.38%
Birds 10.00 21.24 46.09%

[bar.y] = mean percentage allocation.
[[sigma].sup.2] = variance.
C.V. = the coefficient of variation (standard deviation/mean).

TABLE 4 Statistics for the Percentage Allocation of Funds in Survey I
for Conserving Less Well-Known Species and Allocations for the Same Set
of Species in Survey II, by Taxon

Percentage allocation for "below average" knowledge set (Survey I)
Taxa [bar.z.sub.1] [[sigma].sup.2] C.V.

Reptiles 30.89 14.15 12.18%
Mammals 10.67 0.71 7.91%
Birds 10.75 0.19 4.07%

Percentage allocation for initially "below average" knowledge set
(Survey II)
Taxa [bar.z.sub.2] [[sigma].sup.2] C.V

Reptiles 34.04 403.15 59.00%
Mammals 11.99 20.93 38.16%
Birds 11.53 20.39 39.20%

[bar.z] = mean allocation for below average knowledge set.
[[sigma].sup.2] = variance.
C.V. = the coefficient of variation (standard deviation/mean).

TABLE 5 Statistics for the Percentage Allocation of Funds in Survey I
for Conserving Better Known Species and Allocations for the Same Set of
Species in Survey II, by Taxon

Percentage allocation for "above average" knowledge set (Survey I)
Taxa [bar.w.sub.1] [[sigma].sup.2] C.V.

Reptiles 13.68 2.47 11.50%
Mammals 12.12 9.93 26.00%
Birds 9.79 5.68 24.30%

Percentage allocation in Survey II for initially "above average"
knowledge set
Taxa [bar.w.sub.2] [[sigma].sup.2] C.V

Reptiles 10.70 1.88 12.80%
Mammals 10.40 12.10 33.46%
Birds 8.47 21.60 54.80%

[bar.w] = mean allocation for above average knowledge set.
[[sigma].sup.2] = variance.
C.V. = the coefficient of variation (standard deviation/mean).

TABLE 6 List of Factors That may Be Important in Influencing
Individuals' Willingness to Contribute Funds to Schemes to Conserve
Particular Species of Wildlife

Factor Comment

1. Judgment of respondent about the See DeKay and McClelland (1996) on
effectiveness of the conservation endangerment and recovery
scheme potential
2. Perceived degree of threat to This influences the perceived
the survival of the species urgency of action
3. The "likeability" of the species Species that are more "humanoid"
influences its utility and valuation may be more likeable
4. Ethical considerations For example, the right of other
 species to exist (cf. Spash, 2000,
 pp. 213-214)
5. Social influences For example, the bandwagon effect
6. Degree of knowledge of the Can affect other factors, e.g., 2
species and 3 and possibly 1
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Publication:Contemporary Economic Policy
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Date:Jan 1, 2006
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