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EP57: Radiolab’s Simon Adler on Hunting Endangered Animals

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SUMMARY: Our interview is with Simon Adler, a producer and reporter for the fantastic NPR show and podcast Radiolab. Simon reported and produced a story about an American millionaire who recently hunted and killed a black rhino—one of the most endangered animals on the planet. At first blush, it’s a disconcerting, colonial, image of a rich Western white guy gunning down an endangered African animal. But as Simon reveals in his story, there’s a lot more at play here. While extremely controversial, this kind of big game hunting has actually become one of the most successful ways of saving these black rhinos. One country where it’s done, Namibia, actually has an increasing population of rhinos, elephants and lions, and Namibian government officials and conservationists directly attribute those numbers to big game hunting. Whereas in many countries like Kenya, where hunting has been banned, animal populations are rapidly declining thanks largely to poachers and people encroaching on the animals’ habitats.

To put this very modern problem into an economic context, co-host Joe Flood starts out by looking at English economist William Forster Lloyd’s once-forgotten treatise on the “Tragedy of the Commons,” how the American environmental movements of the 1960s and 70s helped his theory and make it one of the most influential ideas in biology, economics and public policy. Then guest Simon Adler takes it from there…