The rarity and overexploitation paradox : stag beetle collections in Japan

Abstract : For some wildlife commodities, rare species are especially sought after. The tendency for rare commodities to be of higher value can fuel their exploitation and as numbers dwindle, the demand can increase. Consequently, this can precipitate these rare species into an overexploitation vortex where they become increasingly rare, valued and exploited until eventual extinction. We focus here on the hobby of collecting stag beetles, to ascertain if the market value of these items is driven by rarity and if, consequently, these species are vulnerable to this overexploitation vortex. Stag beetle collections fuel a large and lucrative market in Japan, involving more than 700 species from all over the world, with over 15 million specimens imported a year. Some particularly valued species fetch more than US$5,000 a piece. We assessed the importance of species rarity as an acquisition criterion in this market using two methods: an Internet online questionnaire responded to by 509 participants and through examining the quantities imported in Japan and prices paid by collectors. We discovered that species rarity is one of the main choice criteria for acquisition by collectors: rare stag beetles are valued more than the common species and, consequently, stag beetles are vulnerable to the anthropogenic Allee effect in this market. Because of the sheer size of the market and the pervasive nature of this rarity paradox, the attraction to rarity equates to a potential extinction threat for many rare stag beetles species.
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Submitted on : Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 3:17:10 PM
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Pierline Tournant, Liana Joseph, Koichi Goka, Franck Courchamp. The rarity and overexploitation paradox : stag beetle collections in Japan. Biodiversity and Conservation, Springer Verlag, 2012, 21 (6), pp.1425-1440. ⟨10.1007/s10531-012-0253-y⟩. ⟨hal-00815334⟩



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