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Benchmarking as a means to improve conservation practice

William J. Sutherlanda1 c1 and Michael J. S. Peela2

a1 Conservation Science Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EJ, UK

a2 Agricultural Research Council–Animal Production Institute, Nelspruit, South Africa

Abstract

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.

(Received February 09 2010)

(Reviewed May 14 2010)

(Accepted July 01 2010)

(Online publication November 05 2010)

Correspondence:

c1 Conservation Science Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EJ, UK. E-mail w.sutherland@zoo.cam.ac.uk

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