Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 6, pp 1425–1440 | Cite as

The rarity and overexploitation paradox: stag beetle collections in Japan

  • Pierline Tournant
  • Liana Joseph
  • Koichi Goka
  • Franck Courchamp
Original Paper


For some wildlife commodities, rare species are especially sought after. The tendency for rare commodities to be of higher value can fuel their exploitation and as numbers dwindle, the demand can increase. Consequently, this can precipitate these rare species into an overexploitation vortex where they become increasingly rare, valued and exploited until eventual extinction. We focus here on the hobby of collecting stag beetles, to ascertain if the market value of these items is driven by rarity and if, consequently, these species are vulnerable to this overexploitation vortex. Stag beetle collections fuel a large and lucrative market in Japan, involving more than 700 species from all over the world, with over 15 million specimens imported a year. Some particularly valued species fetch more than US$5,000 a piece. We assessed the importance of species rarity as an acquisition criterion in this market using two methods: an Internet online questionnaire responded to by 509 participants and through examining the quantities imported in Japan and prices paid by collectors. We discovered that species rarity is one of the main choice criteria for acquisition by collectors: rare stag beetles are valued more than the common species and, consequently, stag beetles are vulnerable to the anthropogenic Allee effect in this market. Because of the sheer size of the market and the pervasive nature of this rarity paradox, the attraction to rarity equates to a potential extinction threat for many rare stag beetles species.


Anthropogenic Allee effect Market price Questionnaire Extinction risk Wildlife trade Collector 



We would like to thank Maxime Guinard for the website conception and Dr Yuya Watari for translations of the site into Japanese. We also thank Kunio Araya, Luca Bartolozzi, Hiroshi Fujita, Paschoal C. Grossi, Tadatsugu Hosoya, Jen-Pan Huang, Hiroshi Kojima, Jean-Michel Maes and Eva Sprecher who all kindly accepted to rank all the stag beetles species in the database according to its rarity. We also wholeheartedly thank all participants for completing the survey and/or forwarding it to other participants. This work was supported by an ANR Grant and a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pierline Tournant
    • 1
    • 4
  • Liana Joseph
    • 1
    • 2
  • Koichi Goka
    • 3
  • Franck Courchamp
    • 1
  1. 1.Ecologie, Systématique & EvolutionUMR CNRS 8079, Université Paris SudOrsay CedexFrance
  2. 2.Wildlife Conservation SocietyThe BronxUSA
  3. 3.National Institute for Environmental StudiesTsukubaJapan
  4. 4.THEMA (UMR CNRS 6049) and Chrono-environnement (UMR CNRS 6249)Université Franche-ComtéBesançon CedexFrance

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