Conservation Influencers

Unmasking conservation NGOs

Conservation Influencers is a directory of 60 of the most prominent NGOs from the animal activist, environmental and ecological lobby, which analyses their history, mission, methodology, funding and reputation. It assesses their influence on the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the framing of the conservation debate globally. 

Environmental NGOs are like mushrooms; they grow up everywhere at all times. Like mushrooms they feed on manure, but you must be careful, some are good, several are poisonous”.

(Felipe Benavides – 1919/1991, famous Peruvian conservationist, known as ‘father of the vicuña’).

A report by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies claims that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in 40 countries ‘represent $2.2 trillion in operating expenditures’, which is ‘larger than the GDP of all but six countries’. The report found that NGOs employ around 56 million full-time equivalent workers. It noted that NGOs are not empowered or appointed by public election. Instead they are responsible at best to their members or, more often than not, to ‘self-perpetuating boards’. 

NGO in the spotlight

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.


Directory of influencers

Directory listing

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.