z295 Paul Tipping, of Wellington, asks :-

Is there evidence that saving endangered bird and animal species from extinction will, in all cases, have tangible benefits for human beings? If not, why do we do it?

Nicola Nelson, a biologist at Victoria University of Wellington, responded.

I don't know of any evidence that saving species from extinction will in ALL cases, as you put it, have tangible benefits for humans. That's a big ask (and I'm not sure why we would even assume that should be the case).

In individual cases there is evidence for certain species providing products that humans use, and therefore should they need conservation attention, then this would be easier to argue.

However, for many species with endangered status we know very little about them, what role they pay in ecosystems, if they are still able to serve that function at small numbers or when in widely dispersed and disconnected patches.

My take on the debate is that we conserve species because largely we are the reason they need conservation effort, so its more a matter of putting things right, and not because of what they can provide for us.

We are responsible for the latest extinction phase. We put effort and resources in when we can to conservation because we don't want to be the generation responsible for giving up on species. I also think we conserve endangered species because of their quirky coolness too - but this is why most effort goes into the more charismatic of the species.