In order to conserve tropical rainforests and wildlife effectively we must have a great deal more information. What we do know about them is extremely inadequate and is geared toward large mammal species and commercially-valuable plants and trees. The global expenditure on tropical biology studies in the 1980’s was less than half the cost of a Boeing 747 airplane! (Robinson, 1988)
National institutes could be set up to coordinate research pertaining to conservation and management of resources. But since most tropical countries do not have the funds to carry out significant scientific research projects on their forests, international efforts must be integrated with national ones. Such enterprises as cooperative ventures with international environmental groups, pharmaceutical companies, botanical gardens, and zoos are potentially valuable. For example, Surinam (as well as several other South American countries) is engaging in bioprospecting, training programs, and research in its rainforests in cooperation with the International Cooperative Biodiversity Group, which is supported by Conservation International, the Missouri Botanical Garden, a local pharmaceutical company, and Bristol Myers Squibb (Kaufmann-Zeh, 1999).
In conjunction with this, research is being done to design “bioengineered” trees which would grow quickly, have a high ratio of wood to leaf (not what the tree itself wants) and be resistant to many pests. There are technical, ecological and ethical problems involved with this research and it remains to be seen whether or not bioengineered trees will provide wood to substitute for the wood of virgin forests (Mann and Plummer, 2002).