WildAid was founded in 2000 by Peter Knights, a former investigator with the Environmental Investigation Agency, with the novel tagline ‘when the buying stops, the killing can too’. WildAid’s mission is to stop the illegal trade in wildlife by reducing consumer demand for wildlife products. It also works with governments, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector, to create, what it calls, ‘the world’s most effective and well-enforced marine protected areas (MPA)’.
WildAid claims that it is primarily concerned with raising awareness and empowering the public. But what it really believes in is the power of high-end advertising techniques, nudge theory and other behavioural sciences to persuade people to make the ‘right’ moral choices, mostly without them realising that they’ve been manipulated. In other words, WildAid believes, paternalistically, that, compared to its target audience, it is morally superior.
WildAid’s annual report tells how it works closely with China Customs, producing Public Service Announcements and running billboard campaigns, which are meant to alter human behaviour. For example, one of WildAid’s recent high-profile campaign featured the Chinese celebrity Huang Xuan, warning the public about the illegality of buying ivory-based products abroad and bringing them back home. WildAid also campaigns to persuade East Asian people to #EndTheTrade of all wildlife products, and to ‘Celebrate special occasions with #NoSharkFins,’ especially in soup.
According to WildAid’s website, it has ‘an unrivalled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and a global network of media partners’. WildAid says that it ‘leverages more than $308 million in annual pro-bono media support’.
In 2019, WildAid produced a three-part documentary series, Between the Sea and Shore, starring the Taiwanese-Canadian actor Eddie Peng. This highlighted the plight of sea turtles sold in local markets, as well the impact of tourism, plastic and overfishing.
WildAid promotes a ‘six-step Marine Protection Program’ known as its ‘Blueprint for MPA Success’, which it tailors for local partners. For example in the Galapagos Islands, Coastal Ecuador, Palau, and Gabon’s coastal MPA network. In its words, the ‘overall ambition of the blueprint is to stop illegal fishing, enforce regulations, allow wildlife recovery, and encourage positive economic opportunity for communities’.
According to its 2019 annual report, WildAid partnered with the National Public Security/Police Ministry’s television network (ANTV) in Vietnam to ‘produce an eight-episode series of programs on wildlife laws, trade, and crime, including coverage of the rhino horn and ivory trades’.
Peter Knights, CEO
Board of Directors, chaired by Robbin Ferracone
According to its annual report, in 2019 its total direct expenses were USD10,970,629, of which USD6,672,306 was spent on wildlife campaigns, USD1,762,189 on marine protection and USD1,029,716 on climate change.