Quite an interesting article here: the abstract is here:
In 1900, the southern white rhinoceros was the most endangered of the five rhinoceros species. Less than 20 rhinos remained in a single reserve in South Africa. By 2010, white rhino numbers had climbed to more than 20,000, making it the most common rhino species on the planet.
Saving the white rhino from extinction can be attributed to a change in policy that allowed private ownership of wildlife. While protecting the rhinos encouraging breeding, the ranchers were able to profit by limited trophy hunting.
Poaching for rhino horn, which is in high demand for medicinal and ornamental purposes, had also devastated the rhino population. CITES banned the commercial sale of rhino horn, which caused black market sales to sky rocket and encouraged poaching. If the ban were lifted, ranchers are ready to supply the market by harvesting the horns humanely, which then regrow just like fingernails.
Strong property rights and market incentives have provided a successful model for rhino conservation, despite the negative impact of command-and-control approaches that rely on regulations and bans that restrict wildlife use.
AUTHOR: Michael 't Sas-Rolfes is an environmental economist based in South Africa and a 2011 PERC Lone Mountain Fellow. For more information visit his website: rhino-economics.com
Full text here.
But I keep on thinking about this. Not sure if this works out everywhere. See this article from the FT on Shark Fins. I quote:
The link between these ancient predators and contemporary wedding receptions is that, among Chinese people, it is a sign of generosity and prestige to serve guests shark-fin soup. Since there are more than 1.3bn Chinese people, and since they are getting more affluent by the day, that is of no little consequence to the shark population. Some 70m sharks are killed each year for their fins. Much of the time, the fins are sliced off with a blade at sea and the bloody shark torso thrown back in the water to die.
Will the market suffice to save sharks? btw, I have had shark meat, its not fun.
But this suffers from the standard problem of big species syndrome. We have millions of species on the earth. It wont be possible to apply market principles to all these species, eh? How about a spider in your back garden?