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Abstract

This paper presents an application of the contingent valuation method (CVM) to determine how the willingness to pay (WTP) for conservation of Asian elephants varies with hypothetical variations in their population. Results from a CVM survey of a sample of urban residents in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka are used for this purpose. We find, consistent with the basic principles of consumer demand theory, the marginal change in the respondents’ WTP amounts is positive but appears to diminish in parallel to the increases in the current wild elephant population (CWEP). In contrast to theoretical expectations, however, we find that the WTP for preserving this species increases at an increasing rate in relation to decreases in the CWEP. This is probably because respondents perceive that extinction becomes more imminent as the abundance of the elephant is reduced and therefore it becomes more urgent to act. However, this adds a new complication to the interpretation of the WTP findings.

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