, Volume 22, Issue 8, pp 1663-1677

Conservation that’s more than skin-deep: alligator farming

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Abstract

Wildlife farming is a contentious conservation measure. In Louisiana alligator farming has generated significant conservation gains. This case study is used to test several assumptions employed in debates about wildlife farming. These include whether farming ‘floods’ the market to depress prices and deter poaching, whether it encourages wild harvest and whether it can compete against wild harvest. Data from over three decades is used to model harvest behaviour with OLS and SUR models. This shows strong separation between the market between farmed and wild alligator skins. Immense rises in farmed output have not caused prices to collapse, however poaching has collapsed. This highlights that farming can have important non-price effects on poaching. Assumptions that are commonly used to debate wildlife farming are not supported in this example. Such assumptions, including open-access of the wildlife, inert and exogenous wildlife managers and excluding indirect benefits of wildlife farming tend to bias policy away from farming. Using these assumptions makes it harder to identify cases where wildlife farming could assist conservation objectives.