Private Ownership and Markets

Protecting Endangered Species with Private Property Rights

Protecting Endangered Species with Private Property Rights

Property ownership may be private, communal or government owned. Privately owned properties are usually owned by individuals who bear authority over them. The rights regarding the ownership of such properties fall into four categories, the right to utilize the property, right to produce revenue from the property, right to allocate the property to other people, and the right to apply these property rights (Klein & Robinson, 2011). Accordingly, this paper looks at how these rights affect scarcity besides finding out two folds of incentives on private property rights, protection of rhino, and a threat to rhino, which is an endangered species.

How Private Property Rights Affect Scarcity

The world today faces an environmental threat with many wild animals species being driven to the verge of extinction. Most of the endangered species are used by human beings as a source of income. This trend is adopted without much care of what is happening to the species. A good example is rhino, which is killed for its horns. The horns are then sold for ornamental and medicinal purposes. Wild animals are a natural resource, which is affected by scarcity just like energy and time, and economists need to find a solution.

According to Gwartney et al. (2014), scarcity occurs when the need for a resource surpasses its natural availability. Consequently, cutbacks are introduced so that the resource is available in the future. This could be the reason that the rhinos are put under private ownership to curb the problem. However, there is no guarantee that private property rights have the ability to control the problem of scarcity. The matter can become worse where the species is under private property ownership because the owner has the right to generate income from the possession. Human beings have to satisfy their needs and the best way would be to use their assets to meet the needs. The availability of demand for their possession and the fact that they have the right to earn income from their assets spells doom to the resource. Individuals can easily consider their immediate needs without much thought of what will happen to others and to the future. Rhinos are a resource that is valuable to all people but in the U.S, its cost and benefits differ from state to state, hence different limits of property rights. Some states may put little value on the wildlife, which then makes over-exploitation a possibility.

Different perspectives regarding wildlife protection result in policies that contradict and individuals, communities, states, and global participants hence conflicting efforts. In this kind of a situation, scarcity of wildlife is imminent. Therefore, limits have to be clearly stated especially to private owners otherwise they can really make the scarcity worse. In addition, all bodies that strive to find the solution to scarcity ought to work together so that they do not come up with guidelines that conflict.

Protecting Rhino Species through Private Property Rights Incentives

Private property rights can significantly contribute to the protection of the endangered rhino. First, rhinos in the wild wander freely without the knowledge of where the boundaries lie between the wild land, which is set apart by the state for their living, and private owned land where individuals carry on their economic activities. Their innate instincts guide them in the vast territory on where to find pastures and water. Sometimes these territories extend to private land, which mostly supports the biodiversity they thrive in. Bearing this in mind, it is important to educate private landowners especially those who have parcels of land near the rhino habitats on the importance of protecting these species. Though many individuals can view this as a threat to their property, having the right education can make them to be enthusiastic about protecting the rhino. With the awareness of the benefits that conservation of rhinos bring, private landowners can improve the survival of the rhino species.

Secondly, apart from private landowners allowing the rhino to roam on their property, they can also manage the species within their property as a source of income. Practicing ecotourism and sustainable hunting can attract many people to the property at a fee. This kind of a plan not only protects the endangered rhino, but also other wild animals that may not be at a risk of being scarce but still need to be taken care of. Despite many parts of Africa banning private ownership of the rhinos, the approach proved to be successful in Zimbabwe where the government allowed individuals to manage rhinos within their pieces of land after most of the African rhino were poached for their horns, which saw a 95% drop in their population between 1970 and 1994 (Alessi, 1999).

Lastly, private property rights at the community level can also protect the rhinos. A good example is Namibia, which extended private land ownership rights to ethnic communities (Nelson, 2009). Trophy hunting is an activity that is highly regarded by these communities and protecting the animals was the only way that the activity could be passed to generations. Therefore, the authorities in Namibia gave these rights so that they can protect the rhinos as they would protect their cattle. This tactic saw the number of black rhino rising from 707 in 1997 to 1134 by 2004 (Nelson, 2009). The strategies prove that rhinos are worth more when alive than dead since they will be a source of income from generation to generation. They are also evidence of protection and conservation of rhinos through private property rights in the developing world. If the strategies can work in the developing world, there is no doubt that they can work in developed countries.

Endangering Rhino Species through Private Property Rights Incentives

Even though private property rights can protect the rhino species, they can also pose a threat to the animals. To begin with, once private landowners discover that the government really wants to protect the rhinos, they can intentionally hurt the animals so that they can draw the attention of the government. Usually, in such cases, individuals seek financial support from the government and would go to dangerous extents to convince the government of their proposals. Repeated planned destruction can take a toll on the rhino species because of natural situations that make recovery to initial numbers almost impossible. For instance, rhinos are known to take long to reproduce, with a gestation period of 16 months. It is the one of the longest conception periods amongst mammals. This combined with the fact that they take care of their calves for about 3 years before they are ready to mate again means that in a period of 10 years, a female rhino will have added only three calves to the population (Glover, 2012). However, this addition is not guaranteed because of other natural factors such as diseases and natural calamities, which contribute to mortality rate.

Besides, private landowners may have a desire of developing their pieces of land to other projects and the presence of rhinos could be an obstacle. When an individual is in such a situation, the rights to utilize and the rights to earn revenue from the land come into play (Nelson, 2009). Rhinos are hunted to create space for other projects and for their horns, which is sold at a handsome price. In addition, the private property rights of sharing the property with other people cannot allow scientists and other people concern with the welfare of the rhinos to use the land. As a result, rhinos are prone to diseases and their populations shrink. In addition, private landowners for fear of land repossession may not alert the authorities of the presence of rhinos within their land. Instead, they are likely to kill the animals and/or create hostile conditions for the animals to discourage the numbers from increasing.


In summary, private property rights affect the survival or scarcity of the rhino species. Therefore, it is important for the need of protection to go beyond authorized rights of a property to individuals or groups. Conservation and protection of the endangered species such as the rhino is everyone’s duty since the animals benefit everyone whether directly or indirectly. In addition, the future generations also need to benefit from the existence of the species.











Alessi, M. (1999). Private Conservation and Black Rhinos in Zimbabwe: The Savé Valley and Bubiana Conservancies. Retrieved from,01687.cfm

Glover, T. (2012). Mating Males: An Evolutionary Perspective on Mammalian Reproduction. London: Cambridge University Press.

Gwartney, J. D., Stroup, R. L., Sobel, R. S., & Macpherson, D. A. (2014). Economics: Public and Private Choice. Boston, MA: Cengage.

Klein, D. B. & Robinson, J. (2011). Property: A Bundle of Rights? Prologue to the Symposium. Economic Journal Watch, 8(3), 193-204.

Nelson, F. (2009). Conservation Can Work: Southern Africa Shows its Neighbors How. Swara (East African Wildlife Society), 32(2), 36–37.

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