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One of the consequences of blogging (& similar) about wildlife conservation is getting emails from various well meaning, and very well intentioned groups.

I think I am now subject to a fairly regular stream of requests to sign say, petitions to stop rhino poaching or send money to save tigers. And mostly I'm thinking, umm, have you really thought about this?

Signing petitions to make governments stop rhino poaching is kind of well, what do you think has been happening since 1977? Trade in rhino parts has been halted, governments have thrown money at the problem. And we've got a lot less rhinos now than we had in 1977. If asking governments to stop poaching was all that it takes, why hasn't it worked yet? Maybe we should try to understand the problem better, why we've go this colossal policy failure. Just maybe, governments involved in stopping this trade really don't know what policy is going to work.

And then there's the tiger ones. Aah, the send money now and we will save the tiger. That's been the motif of many a conservation group for decades. We've spent a lot of money on saving the tiger, and the final outcome is we have a lot less. In fact, we have so few left now, they're gone from Vietnam and Cambodia. So spending more money doing the same thing that's been failing for 20-30 years is going to help the tiger how exactly? The one thing tigers seem to be good at, is getting people to donate money to conservation groups. I haven't seen anyone send me a message saying, send us money and we'll save the gharial.

I mean gharials are obviously different right. Unlike tigers which are a top predator in their ecosystem, gharials are a top predator in their ecosystem. And unlike tigers which have shrunk to a mere 6% of their original range, gharials have an enormous 2% left. And tigers with their wild population of say 3200-3500 animals should evoke far more concern than gharials with their population of 1000. Obviously conservation groups should be more concerned about saving tigers than gharials…what have we got to be worried about with gharials?

It would be a little more convincing if groups didn't show quite the intense interest in charismatic animals at expense of other endangered- and that they actually have a viable plan to save tigers that test the payoff from these donations.