Many animal conservation initiatives focus on stopping poachers and preserving habitats but British ecologist Peter Knights concentrates on persuading people not to buy products produced from endangered animals.
The messages of WildAid, whose mission is to “end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes”, reach millions. Peter Knights, who describes himself as an unconventional environmentalist, is the organization’s co-founder and chief executive. He became an Associate Laureate in 1998 for running the world’s first international programme to eliminate demand for endangered wild animal by-products. This developed into WildAid, which adopted the memorable slogan, “When the buying stops, the killing can too”.
To reduce poaching we need to reduce the demand for wildlife products. Led by local icons like Jackie Chan and Yao Ming, our entrepreneurial advertising approach leveraged more than US$1 billion of media space, while helping to reduce shark fin consumption by 50—70% and cut ivory prices in half.
WildAid’s inventive campaigning against the consumer demand that drives poaching has attracted support from conservationists and global icons including Jackie Chan, Prince William, Jane Goodall, Sir Richard Branson, Lupita Nyong’o and Yao Ming. “When we are on state TV in China, or national TV in India, we reach huge audiences,” explains Knights, who persuades major media outlets to give free time and space to WildAid.
Knights has evidence that WildAid, with its strategy of focusing on charismatic species, is making a difference, changing people’s attitudes and doing so on a grand scale: “Shark fin consumption is estimated down 50–70 per cent in China in the last two years and down 30 per cent-plus in other parts of Asia. Awareness is up 50 per cent in China on elephant and rhino poaching.”
US$ 200 million
Approximate value of pro-bono media support leveraged by WildAid in an average year
Estimated number of elephants killed in Africa each year for their tusks. WildAid is campaigning against the trade in ivory
Number of famous actors, athletes and musicians enlisted as WildAid ambassadors