Chapter 4: The economic worth of conserving the Asian elephant
Both the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) are described by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as being threatened with extinction but the threat appears to be greater for the former than the latter (Blanc, 2008; Choudhury et al., 2008). Despite this, much more attention seems to have been given to assessing the economics of conserving the African elephant than its Asian counterpart. Nevertheless, beginning a little over a decade ago, Bandara and Tisdell undertook research to determine the economic worth to Sri Lankans of conserving Asian elephants in Sri Lanka (see, for example, Bandara and Tisdell, 2002a, 2003a, 2003b, 2004, 2010). The purpose of this chapter is to outline the nature of this research and its main findings, update aspects of the analysis and integrate the results with the biodiversity conservation theme of this book. First, general information is provided about the nature and status of the Asian elephant and threats to its continuing existence. As part of the research completed by Bandara and Tisdell, a survey was undertaken of a sample of urban Sri Lankans to determine their willingness to pay for the conservation of elephants in Sri Lanka. The nature of the survey is outlined and the results are reported and analysed. Elephants cause considerable damage to agricultural crops and from this point of view, are a serious pest.
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