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Benchmarking as a means to improve conservation practice

  • William J. Sutherland (a1) and Michael J. S. Peel (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 05 November 2010

Benchmarking, the comparison of efficiency measures of an organization against those of other organizations, is widely used in industry, medical practice and agriculture as a means of learning where practice can be improved. This could be used by conservationists for routine repeatable activities, such as the treatment of invasive species or the survival rate of transplanted plants. We give three examples of the benefits of cross-site comparisons: grazing management in South Africa, husbandry of captive penguins and management of lagoons for wading birds. Benchmarking, by comparing effectiveness with others, is the initial stage in identifying weaknesses and leads on to learning how to improve through cross-site comparisons, comparisons with better performers or examination of the published literature. We suggest that the term best practice, which is often used as part of benchmarking, is unsuitable as it implies a comparison of all options, which rarely takes place, and it is subject to change as knowledge and techniques develop. An alternative term is current effective practice.

Corresponding author
*Conservation Science Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EJ, UK. E-mail
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N. Blay & I.M. Côté (2001) Optimal conditions for breeding of captive Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti): a survey of British zoos. Zoo Biology, 20, 545555.

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M.J.S. Peel (2009) Ecological Monitoring: Sabi Sand Wildtuin. Sixteenth Unpublished Annual Report. Agricultural Research Council of South Africa, Nelspruit, South Africa.

M.J.S. Peel , J.M. Kruger & P.J.K. Zacharias (2005) Environmental and management determinants of vegetation state on protected areas in the eastern Lowveld of South Africa. African Journal of Ecology, 43, 352361.

W.J. Sutherland , A.S. Pullin , P.M. Dolman & T.M. Knight (2004) The need for evidence-based conservation. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 19, 305308.

W.J. Sutherland , D. Armstrong , S.H.M. Butchart , J. Earnhardt , J. Ewen , I. Jamieson . (2010) Standards for documenting and monitoring bird reintroduction projects. Conservation Letters, 3, 229235.

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  • ISSN: 0030-6053
  • EISSN: 1365-3008
  • URL: /core/journals/oryx
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