Play Poker, Save a Species?

koalas photo
Koalas are just one of the species that could be helped if Aussies did more... gambling?

Australia is home to a multitude of species found nowhere else on Earth--but just in the last 100 years they've had to strike off a whopping 55 animal species from that list because of extinction. Now, due to forest fires, invasive species, and environment destruction caused by climate change, the list of 372 animal species currently classified as 'threatened' in Australia is bound to grow. Even the creation of wildlife preserves and national parks in the country has yet to stave off the threat to Australia's species on the brink.

A recent proposal from a professor at the University of Queensland considers what is reportedly one of the Aussies' favorite pastimes--gambling. Is the creation of an endangered animal lottery the answer to saving threatened species? Or does it diminish the importance of environmental responsibility by pairing it with one of society's shadier habits?Professor Hugh Possingham, who teaches ecology at the university, outlined a four-tiered solution, as reported by The Nature Conservancy:

  • Put the name of each Australian threatened and endangered species in a lottery barrel.
  • Each year right before the Melbourne Cup, Australia's biggest horse race, get the environment minister (currently ex-Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett) to spin the barrel and draw out a species name.
  • Whatever proportion of that species' population lives on a piece of land, the owner of that land - be it a private individual, an indigenous group, an NGO, a corporation, or even a state government - receives the equivalent proportion of $20 million - less than 0.4% of annual gambling revenue in Australia.
  • Have the winning species, along with facts about it and where it lives, published on the front page of Australian papers along with the Melbourne Cup-winning racehorse.

Sadly, many species on the endangered list don't have the PR prowess of the Koala or Platypus, despite facing even more serious threats, and often being just as cute. In many ways, Professor Possingham's proposal, designed to expand awareness of the less popular threatened species, is as much of a publicity campagn for the animals in need of protection as it is actual help. Perhaps he sees ignorance of endangered species to be the real threat to their survival.

Sure, it's a bit unconventional to use gambling to help save threatened species, but when it comes to conservation strategies, let's not be afraid to put all the cards on the table.

More on Australia's Endangered Species
Snipers to Take Out Foxes to Protect Endangered Australian Penguins
Leaking Australian Offshore Oil Well to Pour Into Ocean For Two Months
Is This The World's First Global Warming Induced Mammal Extinction?

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