We investigated the relative economic values of the otter Lutra lutra and the water vole Arvicola terrestris , two species that occupy similar habitats and face common threats of habitat change, habitat fragmentation and pollution. Willingness to pay for conservation was estimated using the contingent valuation method. Data were collected by a telephone survey using a referendum based on willingness to pay a specified amount as a single addition to tax. The most influential variables in determining respondents' willingness to pay were their age, the specified tax amount, whether they were aware of the threats to that specific species, whether they were a member of a conservation organisation and whether they walked frequently in the countryside. Mean willingness to pay values obtained were £11·91 for the otter, £7·44 for the water vole, and £10·92 for both species together. Aggregated over the survey population of North Yorkshire, these results equate to £6·4 million, £4·0 million and £5·8 million, respectively. These figures are well in excess of the calculated present values for the UK action plans for the otter and the water vole (£0·8 million and £1·0 million, respectively). The results demonstrate strong public support for mammal conservation, in particular for high profile ‘flagship’ species, and suggest that public profile may be as important as rarity or the degree of threat in determining a species' relative economic value.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Dec 1, 1997
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