Prototyping for Successful Conservation: the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Program

Tim W. Clark
Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 301 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06511 and Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative, Box 2705, Jackson, WY 83001

Richard P. Reading
Denver Zoological Foundation, 2900 East 23rd Avenue, Denver, CO 80205

Gary Backhouse
Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Victoria, Australia.

Prototyping is a practical response to the need for innovation, creativity, and new initiatives in
endangered species conservation. Though prototyping is an inventive approach to diverse problems
that strives to develop a model on which to base future programs, it has not been utilized fully in
species conservation programs despite its growing record of positive benefits. Prototypes are flexible,
creative processes and designs for detecting and correcting errors that cannot be otherwise
detected in uncertain, original, and spontaneous systems, such as in recovery programs. Endangered
species conservation is an ideal instance where prototyping may well significantly upgrade
recovery efforts. Successful prototyping requires that all participants agree to participate, that the
leadership is cooperative, that the process is open and creative, and that participants' primary
objective is improving performance, not power or some other personal or organizational goal. A
prototyping exercise, carried out in Victoria, Australia, beginning in 1988, to facilitate the conservation
and recovery of the endangered eastern barred bandicoots (Perameles gunnii), met with
success as the population increased from 150 individuals at one site to over 700 individuals at seven
sites over the next few years. Lessons learned in this prototyping exercise are easily transferable to
other endangered species recovery efforts, including: (1) explicitly using a prototyping strategy to
guide recovery efforts; (2) embracing an interdisciplinary, problem-oriented approach; (3) using
small, knowledgeable teams; (4) clarifying goals and establishing open, accountable decision-making
mechanisms; and (5) evaluating all aspects of the recovery exercise systematically and regularly.