The cost of ecological and environmental protection is a core part of ecological compensation standards and consists of direct costs, opportunity costs and development. This paper uses Naqu, a section of the Chang Tang Nature Reserve, Tibet as a case study to assess direct and opportunity costs of wildlife conservation to herdsmen. A standard sheep unit has been established for determining the animal carrying capacity of grasslands across China, and we used this to convert wild animals into standard sheep units. This approach links the grassland ecosystem, herbivorous wild animals and their valuation together. Our results show that the total cost of wildlife conservation reached 5.69 billion Chinese Yuan (CNY). The opportunity cost was 4.5 billion CNY, accounting for 79% and direct cost. The biggest economic loss to herdsmen was the opportunity cost in Chang Tang Nature Reserve and means that herdsmen have to give up economic income from livestock husbandry when grazing is banned. Opportunity cost assessment is integral to establishing ecological compensation. The average value of wildlife conservation was 1482 CNY per capita and 57 CNY per hectare according to population and the area of moderately and seriously degraded grassland. The period of ecological compensation should last five to ten years after grazing is banned.
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Vol. 3 • No. 1