The broad vision of the new environmentalist, who seeks to conserve the world's ecosystems for the sake of the human species as well as wildlife, has much to commend it. Beside it, the traditional conservationist's approach, aiming to conserve wildlife for its own sake, seems outmoded. The development of the concept of ecosystem management, however, has been accompanied by other shifts in emphasis. Among them is the idea of wildlife as an economic asset, paying for its own conservation by providing, for example, tourist revenue and pharmaceuticals. This development may seem to be the fulfilment of the dream of those who want to ‘sell’ conservation to those with power over the environment. The author, who has recently completed writing the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book on African birds, offers a personal view of where the new trend may be leading many of the threatened species of the earth.