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The contingent valuation method is often used for valuing environmental goods possessing use as well as non-use values. This paper investigates the relative importance of these values in relation to the existence of the wild Asian elephant. It does so by analysing results from a contingent valuation survey of a sample of urban residents living in three selected housing schemes in Colombo. We find that the major proportion of the respondents’ willingness to pay (WTP) for conservation of wild elephants is attributable to the non-use values of the elephant. However, differences in the relative importance of these values exist between those who visit national parks and those who do not. Differences in respondents’ WTP for conservation of elephants are found to be largely influenced by attitudinal and behavioural factors rather than socio-economic ones. We conclude that policymakers must recognise and take account of the importance of non-use values of the Asian elephant, if this endangered species is to survive in the long run. Nevertheless, the non-consumptive use value of elephants in Sri Lanka is also found to be substantial.


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