Of Snow Leopards and African Elephants

a leopardRobert Clayton Dean finds himself in a dilemma. The dilemma is about endangered species and libertarian principles. Since libertarian principles are congruent with economic principles, I do not see the dilemma. If snow leopards have a market value, then someone will supply snow leopards. If these suppliers have enforceable property rights in the snow leopard habitats then the suppliers will have incentive to make sure there is always a supply.

Creating state run parks and nature preserves has not helped the African Elephant in much of Africa. It is in South Africa where private property rights in elephants are acknowledged that elephant herds are growing. Whole industries have sprung up offering tours and safaris, promising views of this majestic beast in the wild. There is even a trade association for elephant owners. While the South African situation for elephants is far from ideal, we can see that property rights and a market for elephants has caused people to realize profit through conservation of the species.

Another problem for the idea of a government park is that Afghanistan cannot afford such comforts. It would necessarily dislodge people who have lived there forever, forcing them to try settling into other peoples lands. Nor would such a park be assured of continued existence. Other political goals will arise that would cause the park to be de-funded.


Without property rights and a market for snow leopards, this leopard and her cubs look like dangerous predators that need to be shot immediatley. With clear property rights and a significant price for snow leopards this leopard and cubs look like capital stock that will ensure many future generations of leopards and leopard conservationists.

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Good post. Think about

Good post. Think about those animals that are property such as dogs, cats, cows, pigs and chickens. None of them are in danger of going extinct. Of course, the idea of killing a snow leopard for its coat is not a pleasant thought, or locking them up in zoos to be goggled at by tourist. However, if it is a question of extinction vs. the above....

Thanks. While there is truth

Thanks. While there is truth to the comparison to dogs, cows, &tc, there is a difficulty as well. All of those are domesticated creatures. Which is why I used elephants for my comparison. Elephants have similar problems as the leopards, difficult to domesticate (as certain historical military adventurers can attest to), a small portion of their total mass is highly prized, and are endangered species. One of the most interesting things I have found about elephants is that the market for tourists seeing large herds is now greater than the market for ivory. One can hope that the market for seeing the snow leopard and other fauna in the wild will overcome the market for hides. But that is a huge if, and the politics in Afghanistan do not look promising.

On a completely different

On a completely different (less economic) note, perhaps one day the concept of "endangered species" and extinction will be less valid than it is today, because of certain technological advances. I'll refrain from writing too much about a subject I know little about, but just imagine the 'Jurassic Park' process being used to try and bring back the extinct Tasmanian Wolf.

This doesn't obviate anything written in the post, but if this technology is ultimately successful, it may temper fears about extinction or even dangerously dwindling numbers (wouldn't help the poor elephant, of course).

Granted, it would be a huge and questionable undertaking to repopulate a species, let alone multiple species at once. And one of the problems with dwindling numbers is a lack of genetic diversity, which (unless we get *really* good) would be exacerbated by cloning.

I'm sure there's an economic theme there somewhere.

I agree that in many

I agree that in many circumstances the libertarian solution of property rights in wild animals and their habitat is the core of the solution. The difficulties and dilemmas come up, however, when trying to implement this solution in the present situation. For example:

It is difficult to impossible to give property rights in free-roaming live wild animals for a variety of practical reasons. Presumably, each animal would be the property of only one person, but how would we know who that person is for each distinct individual animal? Free-roaming animals cross property lines at will, so simply saying that the animal is the property of the landowner will not suffice.

Allowing anyone who can capture or kill a wild animal to claim it as his or her property opens the door to the tragedy of the commons that has driven some species to extinction. Thus, we rely on the state to give a hunting license to reduce a wild animal to possession, in order to prevent the tragedy of the commons. However, we are already departing from a strict libertarian model here, and the ordinary understanding of property has broken down.

Wild animals produce a number of special considerations for straightforward property/market analysis. I am toying with the idea that there are strong analogies between the creation of intellectual property and the application of property concepts to wild animals.

R.C. there is more to

R.C. there is more to property rights than owning the particular animal. Property rights in the animal's habitat are just as important, and lacking in much of the snow leopard's habitat. As a person who is owned by a cat, I can tell you that the best way to maintain "property rights" in a domesticated cat is to convince the cat it wants to stay with you. This is true (and even more important) for wild animals. Making your land attractive to the animal in question is very effective. Patrolling the land, discouraging poachers, and encouraging (stocking) prey species, are all effective ways to manage and attract the snow leopards to your land. A common technique in deer hunting is to put out prime food in various locations throughout the year to get the deer to go there for food on a regular basis. This does two things: increases the chance the hunter will bag a deer, and encourages population growth of the deer.

think of the poor

think of the poor animals!!!
we love cats and dogs because we think they are good pets well just imagain if your pet was that snow leopard that was being endangered and i bet if snow leopards were our pets we would do all that we could to stop them from being endangered.

i happen to be doing a project on these poor animals and i feel really sorry for them and i would do any thing to help save them from being endangered even if it means standing up for them against anyone
these are beautiful creatures and i dont want them to become extinct!!!

ur info. is really good but

ur info. is really good but u need more info.

can you pleace save the snow

can you pleace save the snow leopard because i know that the goverment is not going to do something about it so can you do something about it PLEACE because i love the snow leopard
Thank You from Kat someone who wants to save the snow leopard.