Conservation Influencers

Environmental Investigation Agency

US and UK

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) was founded in 1984 by Dave Currey, Jennifer Lonsdale and Allan Thornton OBE, who set up Greenpeace’s London office in 1976. These three activists came together to form EIA as a consequence of their experience recording minke whale hunts off northern Norway. According to EIA, they realised that on-the-ground documentary investigations provided ‘powerful new tools for effective campaigning’. 

The Environmental Investigation Agency investigates and campaigns against environmental crimes and abuse. Its investigations focus on protecting oceans, forests, pangolins and other iconic species, as well as on climate change mitigation issues. Much of EIA’s work is directed toward producing evidence designed to influence the votes and outcomes at CITES’ CoPs. 

The EIA has a credible track-record exposing real world examples of wildlife crime on the ground, sometimes by taking great personal risks to acquire the evidence, other times by just doing good desk research. However, instead of looking at or criticising the causes of the problem, which is that prohibition encourages crime, EIA always recommends more stringent prohibition as the solution.

For example, at the 71st meeting of the CITES Standing Committee (SC71), EIA produced a briefing paper on tiger farms in Laos that cited so-called contraventions of the Convention and which demanded, unsuccessfully, that the Standing Committee recommend that CoP-18 should suspend trade with Lao PDR. 

When it comes to successes, EIA claims that its undercover investigation played a major role in achieving the 1989 international ban on the elephant ivory trade. For example, it says that its report ‘A System of Extinction: The African Elephant Disaster’ was distributed to every participant at CITES’ CoP-7. 

The Environmental Investigation Agency has been accused of spreading emotive claims in the media that cannot be substantiated by evidence. One example being when it claimed that a complete ivory trade ban was the only solution available to save the African elephant from extinction. (see: Investigating the Influence of Non-state Actors on Amendments to the CITES Appendices)

Before every CITES CoP, EIA publishes its recommendations on every proposed listing of a species on the agenda, which it circulates to the Parties and to the media.

The Environmental Investigation Agency has been operational in the USA since 1989.

Leadership

Mary Rice, Executive Director UK. Allan Thornton Executive Director global.

Governance

Allan Thornton, President of global Board (Founder). UK Board of Trustees, John Stephenson, a former diplomat, chair. 

Finance

In 2019 EIA recorded an income of £3,720, 273 in the UK, of which £1,734,069 went on staff salaries and £426, 075 to creditors.

About the directory

Conservation Influencers is a searchable directory of the animal activist, environmental and ecological lobby. It examines the history, mission, methodology and reputation of NGOs to assess their impact on the global conservation cause.

Featured

Franz Weber Foundation

From 1990 until 2015, Franz Weber Foundation (FFW) managed the Fazao-Malfakassa National Park in Togo, which was, according to an in-depth investigation by Duke University, ‘established by forcing the local communities off their land and without taking into consideration their point of view’. That same study cited convincing evidence from reports published in 1990, confirming that competition for land use was already ‘creating conflict between the local communities and park managers’. In 2015, Togo refused to renew FFW’s contract because, the report says, ‘local communities were still excluded from the management of the natural resources of their land’ and FFW had ‘failed to fulfil its contract’. Franz Weber Foundation plays a major role within CITES because it funds and manages from Switzerland the African Elephant Coalition (AEC), which represents 32 African range states, some of which have barely any elephants and others none at all. Contrary to the wishes of the range states in Southern Africa, which manage most of the world’s wild elephant populations, the AEC at CITES’ CoPs repeatedly tables proposals to put all of the world’s elephants in appendix I. And the AEC uses its voting power to keep in place prohibitions on ivory sales and all other trade in elephant-related derivatives, including skins and hair, which Southern African nations wish to legalise.

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