Monthly Archives: September 2016

297 – You can own a critically endangered species

Here’s another quick follow up to my post on Monday about the value of a threatened species. Ross Allen contacted me to say that he had received a present of a Wollemi Pine in a pot. The interesting thing is that the Wollemi Pine is one of Australia’s 148 critically endangered plants.

It turns out that you can buy a Wollemi Pine pot plant online. Here’s the short blurb from

The Wollemi Pine is one of the world’s oldest and rarest plants dating back to the time of the dinosaurs. With less than 100 adult trees known to exist in the wild, the Wollemi Pine is now the focus of extensive research to safeguard its survival. 

And here is why they are doing it:


Photo: Akerbeltz

Assist in the conservation effort by growing your own Wollemi Pine and becoming part of one of the most dramatic comebacks in natural history.

The mission of Wollemi Australia Pty Ltd is to distribute the Wollemi Pine worldwide ensuring the longevity of the plant for future generations and returning royalties to fund conservation of the Wollemi Pine in the wild and assist other threatened and endangered species.

The Botanic Gardens Trust (Sydney) has licensed Wollemi Australia Pty Ltd to propagate and market the Wollemi Pine in Australia and internationally. 

That’s a pretty interesting use of the market economy to help preserve a species. It looks like they are even selling them into Europe and soon Japan. I hope they don’t become a feral species over there!

Obviously, this strategy wouldn’t work for all threatened species. Luckily for Wollemi Pines, they’re interesting looking, apparently can be successfully propagated, and it’s not the end of the world if Ross doesn’t have a green thumb. I don’t think I’ll be allowed to buy a Western Swamp Tortoise any time soon.

296 – Endangered species stamps

Walking past the post office this morning I saw that they are selling a new collection of stamps featuring endangered wildlife. “What a coincidence”, I thought. As a quick follow up to my last Pannell Discussion, I thought I’d share images of the stamps here.

The fact that Australia Post has put these  stamps out seems to support my observation that endangered species are one aspect of the environment that connects relatively well with the general public.


There are seven stamps, including four animals from Australia, two from Asia and one from Africa.


Australia Post has done a beautiful job in the design of these stamps. It seems like they’ve also done a good job in providing materials for school teachers to base lessons on these stamps and on the general issues of endangered wildlife. Their web site provides some basic facts and a range of resources that look pretty interesting. The pity, though, is that so few physical letters get posted these days that the impact of a stamp series like this can’t be all that large. I wonder how many people will actually receive one of these stamps in their letterbox.

295 – What is a threatened species worth?

There are around 1800 species included on Australia’s national list of threatened species of fauna and flora. The most severely threatened category, “critically endangered”, includes 6 mammals, 16 birds, 8 fish, 9 reptiles, 5 frogs, 25 other animals and 148 plants.

My feeling is that the general public is more concerned about threatened species than about many other environmental issues. There is something horrifying about the thought of extinction that resonates with most people to some extent.

Nevertheless, our performance at improving the status of threatened species is generally poor, in part because of a lack of funding available to address the problems.

tassie_tigerResearchers have attempted to measure the level of public concern about threatened species in a variety of ways. Economists have most often measured it using surveys to elicit people’s willingness to pay to protect a species, or their willingness to trade-off species protection against other benefits that they care about.

The Department of the Environment (as it was then) asked us to review the existing evidence from this body of research. The results are available online here. Here is the abstract from the report:

Literature on non-market valuation (NMV) of threated species and threatened ecological communities was collated and reviewed. We reviewed 76 papers, of which seven were from Australia. There is strong evidence that the broader community does support and is willing to pay for protection and recovery of threatened species. In many cases, the estimated non-market values far exceed the expenditure that would be required to protect or recover the species. However, there are significant gaps in the literature, particularly for threatened reptiles, plants, insects and non-charismatic species. There are no NMV studies of threatened ecological communities. We identify cases where evidence about non-market values has had a notable impact on the management or funding of threatened species. There are many such cases. However, overall utilisation of NMVs in decision making about threatened species is low and there is great potential for benefits if its utilisation is increased. Barriers inhibiting such an increase include lack of awareness of economics in relevant organisations, lack of existing economics capacity in those organisations, the limited volume of existing evidence about NMVs for threatened species and ecological communities, and a lack of time and resources to undertake economic analysis. We make suggestions for future directions for research and capacity-building.

Further reading

Pandit, R., Subroy, V., Garnett, S.T., Zander, K.K. and Pannell, D. 2015. A review of non-market valuation studies of threatened species and ecological communities. Report to the National Environmental Science Programme, Department of the Environment, Canberra. 18 December 2015. Full report here.

Richardson, L. and Loomis, J. (2009). The total economic value of threatened, endangered and rare species: An updated meta-analysis, Ecological Economics 68(5), 1535-1548. IDEAS page