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Maximising Return on Investment for elephant and ape conservation in Africa

Maximising Return on Investment for elephant and ape conservation in Africa

Supervisor: Prof Andrew Balmford


Andrew Plumptre, Wildlife Conservation Society/Zoology,

Robin Naidoo, WWF-US, Robin.Naidoo@WWFUS.ORG

Timothy Tear, Wildlife Conservation Society,

Project summary:

Conservation agencies focus on focal species (keystone, umbrella, flagship, etc,) but there has been no assessment of where offers the greatest Return on Investment (ROI) when funding flagship species conservation. This project will use an ROI approach to develop tools to identify where to invest in conservation across a species' range, in order to maximise the outcomes of conservation investments. The metrics identified will be tested on elephant and ape conservation across Africa, using data on costs of conservation, elephant/ape numbers and trends compiled for the entire continent both within and between countries,  to evaluate how best to measure ROI. 

What the student will be doing:

The student will initially evaluate the literature on ROI to assess what metrics have been used to date and propose how they could be applied and modified to estimate ROI for species conservation. This will lead to a theoretical paper on measuring ROI. The relevant data for the metrics will then be compiled for elephants and apes, with the support of WCS (AP, TT) and WWF (RN) across Africa. Key data will include information on current investment in conservation at sites, trends in elephants and ape numbers, estimated population sizes, and national-level governance indices. The student will then conduct ROI analyses for elephants and apes using their proposed metrics and use the results to develop two publications guiding conservation investments on the continent.  Fieldwork to collate data from some countries will be supported by WCS and will involve a site visit by the student to some countries in Africa. 


Tear, T. H., B. N. Stratton, et al. (2014). A return-on-investment framework to identify conservation priorities in Africa. Biological Conservation 173: 42-52.

Auerbach, N. A., A. I. T. Tulloch, et al. (2014). Informed actions: where to cost effectively manage multiple threats to species to maximize return on investment. Ecological Applications 24(6): 1357-1373. DOI: 10.1890/13-0711.1

Naidoo, R., B. Fisher, A. Manica, and A. Balmford.  2016.  Estimating  economic losses to tourism from the illegal killing of elephants.  Nature Communications, in press.


Applicants may apply to the NERC DTP for funding for this project.