Questions raised over funding for kakapo and kiwi

CUTE: Hand-raised kakapo chicks are very cute but is the species worth saving given the cost to do so.
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CUTE: Hand-raised kakapo chicks are very cute but is the species worth saving given the cost to do so.

A cute and cuddly species like the kakapo may be easy to fundraise for, but extremely expensive to save.

A new study released Wednesday said private sponsorship of "blue-chip" species such as the kiwi or kakapo can be an inefficient use of money donated to organisations like the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Twice as many species could be saved if these funds went into a general pool and were allocated to the most cost-effective conservation projects, said the authors including Richard Maloney of DOC.

The kakapo recovery programme was highlighted as an example of inefficiency. Partially funded by private sponsorship, the public money put in would likely have got more conservation bang for the buck if invested on other species, the Proceedings of the Royal Society B paper concluded.

The paper crunched the numbers around investment in the country's 700 most threatened species.

Yet the authors were not wholly critical of the species sponsorship approach, such as DOC's Kiwis for Kiwi or whio-blue duck recovery programme. 

They note programmes aimed at protecting a particular native animal might attract funding that a drive for general conservation would not.

 "Making even one additional species safe from extinction would not be a trivial conservation outcome."

The authors recommend that charismatic species receiving such sponsorship should share the love around, with the donated money focussed on projects that also conserve creatures with less public appeal.

Sponsors could also be encouraged to sponsor a "fleet" of species, rather than just one enigmatic one, as well as donating to general conservation goals.

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"Even among birds, which are one of the best understood and most charismatic [New Zealand fauna groups], conservation funding is several times lower than what is necessary to ensure survival of all threatened species.

"To slow the loss of biodiversity, both efficient use of current funds and generation of new funds will be crucial."

 - Dominion Post

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