There is an urgent need for human societies to become environmentally sustainable. Because public
policy is largely driven by economic processes, quantifications of the relationship between market
prices and environmental values can provide important information for developing strategies towards
sustainability. Wildlife in southern Africa is often privately owned and traded at game auctions to
be utilized for commercial purposes mostly related to tourism. This market offers an interesting
opportunity to evaluate how market prices relate to biologically meaningful species characteristics. In
this market, prices were not correlated with species contributions to either phylogenetic or functional
diversity, and species contributions to phylogenetic or functional diversity did not influence the
trends in prices over time for the past 20 years. Since this economic market did not seem to appreciate
evolutionary or ecologically relevant characteristics, we question if the game tourism market may
contribute towards biodiversity conservation in southern Africa. We suggest that market prices in
general may have limited values as guides for directing conservation and environmental management.
We further suggest that there is a need to evaluate what humans value in biological organisms, and how
potentially necessary shifts in such values can be instigated.