Catherine L. Craig, email@example.com, Harvard University, Museum of Comparative Zoology, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA
The rural poor of developing countries have become gatekeepers of the world’s biodiversity. However, the need to generate income for survival can result in the depletion of the biological resources on which rural people depend. The challenge for conservation biologists and development planners is to identify and support new means of income generation that are both sustainable and that depend on the maintenance of a healthy biological environment. Native silk moth farming is an industry that meets these criteria. Native silk moths are found in many different ecological habitats, feed on diverse, native trees and shrubs and require that natural habitats be protected. Silk is a high value fiber and silk moth cocoons and larvae are easily accessible. Fiber processing, spinning, and weaving can be accomplished within the local community and provide many jobs. The technology required to produce silk products is relatively simple and the tools that are needed lie within the economic means of the rural poor. The markets for new silk textiles and fibers for use in biotechnology are growing. The resources needed to bring conservation initiatives that plan for the long-term needs of local communities and habitat preservation, require a collaborative network of conservation biologists, local and national governments, local financial institutions and development organizations. An effective way to proceed is to "add-value" to existing development programs, agricultural or commercial networks.