Vyaghranomics in space and time : estimating habitat threats for Bengal, Indochinese, Malayan and Sumatran tigers
As the wild tiger population in tropical Asia dropped from about 100,000 to 3,500 in the last century, the need to conserve tiger habitats poses a challenge for the Global Tiger Recovery Program. This paper develops and uses a high-resolution monthly forest clearing database for 74 tiger habitat areas in ten countries to investigate habitat threats for Bengal, Indochinese, Malayan and Sumatran tigers. The econometric model links forest habitat loss and forest clearing to profitability calculations that are affected by market expectations, environmental conditions and evolving patterns of settlement, among others. It uses new spatial panel estimation methods that allow for temporal and spatial autocorrelation. The econometric results emphasize the role of short-run market variables, including the exchange rate, real interest rate and prices of agricultural products in forest clearing, with considerable variation in the estimated timing for response and impact elasticities across countries. The results highlight a critical message for the conservation policy community: Changes in world agricultural-product markets and national financial policies have significant, measurable effects on tropical forest clearing, with variable time lags and degrees of responsiveness across countries. Measuring these effects and pinpointing areas at risk can provide valuable guidance for policymakers, conservation managers, and donor institutions.
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