- Winter of 2008 Wildlife Conservation Society focused its efforts on a small number of animals
- Experts gathered in a conference room to decide what species were more important than others
- Judged animals function first
- There are many endangered species in the world, but some conservation groups have chosen to ignore all but a couple hundred
- Another approach is the "evolution first" method of prioritization
- Many argue, however, that unintentional triage is constantly occurring through funding differences
- In the 1980s, timber and fishing industries tried to change the Endangered Species Act for their own interests
- "Function first" prioritization has the advantage of preserving the general function of an ecosystem, but is only useful where such ecosystems are understood
- The goal of the "evolution first" method is to preserve genetic diversity, which will help adaptation in environments that are rapidly changing
- However, if an entire evolutionary tree of species is endangered, it is hard to choose which one will be saved
Recently, conservation groups have realized they have to face a harsh reality, that they can not save everything. Instead of using a lot of money to save thousands of species, they decide to only select a few hundred that are a key species in the environment, so they can focus their efforts to save only those species. One method to approach choosing which species to save is the function first approach, it prioritizes species that have functions that are essential to an ecosystem's health. The 2nd approach is the evolution first approach, which aims to preserve genetic diversity, which can help species adapt to changing environments. In these cases, species that are genetically distinct, beneficial to other species, and important culturally are preferred. The third approach is a combination of the two, but it has been under criticism because many are worried that it oversimplifies the complex global issue. In general, this sort of preference to a species, also known as triage is controversial. Many conservationists feel uncomfortable choosing which species will die and which will live. Others feel that triage will encourage "short term over long term" behavior because funding provides a motive.
Triage is a controversial topic, but I feel it is a realistic approach to a big problem. Although it is difficult to choose which species will go extinct, triage is more effective than traditional methods. In triage, a limited amount of resources (funding) is used to focus just on a select hundred species. In other systems, this same amount of funding is spread across much more species. In extreme cases, it is possible that no species would be saved in the traditional system. However, using triage, the preferred species will have a much greater chance of being saved. Like many other things in ecology, many of the pitfalls of triage can be solved using regulation. More governments need to recognize triage as a legitimate course of action in conservation for it to be useful and responsible.