Conservation Influencers

WildAid

USA

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 likes to claim that is focused on 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. 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’.                     

Leader

Peter Knights, CEO

Governance

Board of Directors, chaired by Robbin Ferracone

Finance

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.

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

Wildlife Conservation Society

In 1906, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) put an African man on display in Bronx Zoo’s Monkey House. In 1918, one of WCS’s founding fathers, Madison Grant, published Passing of the Great Race, which Adolf Hitler referred to as his ‘Bible’. Another leading creator and early leader of WCS, Henry Fairfield Osborn Sr, was also a founder of the American Eugenics Society. His son headed WCS from 1940 to 1968, overseeing a series of major initiatives in Africa. There, WCS became one of the architects of the prohibition movement, which put wildlife for consumptive use and vast regions of land out of bounds to humanity. In 2020, WCS distanced itself in public from the racist views of Grant and Henry Fairfield Osborn Sr. But it has yet to issue a critical account of the legacy of Fairfield Osborn Jr, even though he led WCS into the modern era while sharing similar politically-inspired ecological goals to his father and Grant. WCS devotes considerable financial resources to influencing outcomes at CITES. WCS’s CEO reportedly earns USD$1,320,978.

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