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What is a Conservation Entrepreneur?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday October 7th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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The Wildlife Conservation Network describes a conservation entrepreneur as someone who demonstrates “the spirit of entrepreneurship in launching innovative projects to protect endangered species.” WCN identifies the qualities of a conservation entrepreneur as someone who dares to try new strategies to save endangered wildlife, creates new ways to save endangered wildlife, empowers local stakeholders, and maximizes the value of every dollar invested in conservation.
WCN Founder Charles Knowles said that the organization’s core mission is to use the “Silicon Valley model” to fund people who work in wildlife conservation, and be their “eyes and ears in the U.S.” According to Knowles, WCN set up their model so that 100 of a donor’s money ends up in the hands of wildlife conservationists.


“It’s a fantastic organization and I recommend it very highly,” Jane Goodall said of WCN.
Solar projects
While attending the 2003 WCN Expo, Stephen Gold heard cheetah conservationist Rebecca Klein’s presentation about her need for energy to conduct research in Botswana. Since Gold powered his own home by solar energy, he contacted WCN’s director Charles Knowles and volunteered to help.
Gold identified six conservationists in need of power and spent three years acquiring donations. The list of donors includes British Petroleum, who donated all of the solar modules.
“We have designed ‚Äòoff-grid’ power systems for many years, but we have never been asked to do this for conservationists on another continent,” said Bruce Roush, Vice President of technical services for Solar Depot, the company who donated assembly parts, plus provided technical design and support.
“It is wonderful that solar electricity is so effective and reliable that it can change the lives of dedicated conservationists, even in the African bush! We were very happy to help WCN with this important project,” said Roush.
Solar power recipient Dr. Laurence Frank of Living with Lions in Kenya said, “It works – the project is lit up, the satellite-internet system is working, and I don’t hear a generator! I am thrilled!”
Cost effectiveness of conservation entrepreneurism
Georgia State University economics professor Paul J. Ferraro and R. David Simpson, environmental policy professor at John Hopkins University wrote several reports on the cost effectiveness of what they termed a direct approach to wildlife conservation, or paying for it directly. “In this approach, domestic and international actors make payments to individuals or groups that protect ecosystems,” their report Cost-effective Conservation: When Eco-entrepreneurs Have Market Power states.
In the report, Ferraro and Simpson deem the direct approach to be “a more cost-effective means of motivating local actors to conserve habitat than the more popular indirect subsidy approach.”
In another report titled The Cost Effectiveness of Conservation Payments, Ferraro and Simpson argue that is “more cost-effective to pay for conservation performance directly.” They list three reasons:
* First, the overall cost of conservation is least when direct payments are employed.
* Second, the donor will generally find direct payments more cost-effective.
* Third, the preferences of donors and eco-entrepreneurs are opposed: when the donor prefers direct payments, the eco-entrepreneur prefers indirect subsidies.
Conservation entrepreneurism could not occur at a better time. Ferraro and Simpson highlight the need for wildlife conservation in their report Cost-Effective Conservation: A Review of What Works to Preserve Biodiversity. They cite the predictions of natural scientists that a third or more of the world’s species could become extinct in the 21st century. “Such losses are encountered in the geological record only at times of astronomical cataclysm.”


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