When we talk of conserving an animal species, what do we actually mean? We might think of a rhinoceros (or any other species, for that matter) pursuing its natural way of life in its native environment, perhaps in a reserve or national park. And why should we want to conserve species? Our thinking may not go much beyond the idealistic position that they have a right to exist and that we (and our children and grandchildren) have a right to see them.
This is all well and good, but behind the scenes and out of the range of the spotlight there surely lurks a shadow. Do we conserve a species because we value it in its own right? More often than not, a declining species may be saved because it offers a tangible commodity to be exploited; and it recovers simply because we have found a different way of exploiting it.