The hypothesis of attaching and realising market values as one means of conserving biodiversity has gained ground over the last decade. This has been challenged recently after examination of a number of case studies, largely from tropical Amazonia, on high value logging, marketing of non-timber forest products, and bioprospecting. The conclusion was that market-orientated conservation has seldom generated the financial returns envisaged, and as such cannot be used as an incentive to prevent land transformation. This paper reviews the basis of the challenge to market-orientated conservation on a number of grounds, drawing on examples largely from southern Africa. It concludes that generalizations from tropical Amazonia regarding the failure of market-orientated conservation are probably premature, and that it should remain an option, amongst a number of options, for conservation of biodiversity. Additionally, the prerequisite criteria identified as necessary to create an enabling framework for the success of market-orientated conservation are insufficient. Case studies are presented where the prerequisites do not apply, yet current extraction for market purposes is sustainable. Other potential prerequisites are also considered. There is a need for multivariate analysis, based on a large sample size drawn from across a range of environments and resources, of which factors are important prerequisites for successful market-orientated conservation, and under which circumstances.
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