Save forests, not tigers... 2020 edition!


Some animals are important because they are termometers.

Save forests, not tigers... 2020 edition! /img/wolf_tiger.jpg

About fifteen years ago I wrote that we should save forests, not tigers (and one year later I published the original version of those thoughts here. That argument just came back to my mind today, when I read about Gorillas, and which environmental thresholds should not be passed.

It seems that some scientists recently criticized the fact that science and politics have not been able to communicate adequately with each other, thus reducing the chances of setting concrete goals and intervening with efficient conservation actions to avoid loss of biodiversity.

Consequently, those scientists propose pose adopting a single biodiversity target based on the risk of extinction: no more than twenty extinct species each year for the next hundred years.

The authors believe that focusing on a single, easily understandable and quantifiable goal is more in line with the vision of “living in harmony with nature”.

As easy as it is to explain, act upon and measure, however, that proposal has really non-negligible limitations, and risks, that are correctly explained in the article I read:

  1. Not all species have the same value in terms of ecosystems and potential benefits for humans (If mountain gorillas disappeared in Rwanda, for example, that country would lose over 19 million USD per year in trekking permits)
  2. Above all, as those scientists themselves acknowledge, if a single small population remained for each existing species, theoretically the extinction rate would be zero, but the functioning of [whole!!!] ecosystems and their services would be extremely at risk

But that is exactly the point I made almost fifteen years ago. Quoting myself:

  • As I read in the Wolf Museum in Civitella Alfedena “an environment able to produce a wolf is a really healthy environment”. A perfect one. That must be the goal. That is what we really need. If wolves or tigers mattered by themselves, zoos may be enough.
  • Therefore, what we must save is, please read and share it again, “forests, not tigers”
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