WildAid takes an economist’s approach in its efforts to end the illegal wildlife trade. Instead of focusing on anti-poaching efforts, it is their belief that driving down demand is more effective. WildAid boasts an impressive roster of international film, music and sports celebrities that star in their Hollywood-quality public service announcements (PSAs). The PSAs educate potential consumers about the ugly truth behind wildlife products. In addition to distributing these PSAs on social media, they negotiate with governments and companies to show them on TV channels across Asia during prime time. They compliment the PSA’s with billboards and other still media in high-traffic public spaces. These efforts have proven incredibly successful in creating a social stigma around buying wildlife products. When surveyed, the vast majority of Chinese residents say they are familiar with WildAid’s messages and that they successfully raise awareness about wildlife protection.
In 2017, Bently Foundation awarded WildAid with $175,000 to support their Ivory Free campaign. This multi-year, multi-country campaign to stop the purchase of elephant ivory has been instrumental in driving down the global price of ivory by 78% between 2014 and 2016. More recently, it has helped secure bans on the ivory trade in China and Hong Kong, yielding an 80% reduction in ivory seizures. WildAid will now begin replicating this success in Thailand and Vietnam, which are major hubs for ivory smuggling.
WildAid’s longest-running campaign has had similar success. Shark fin consumption helps fund the incredibly cruel practice of shark-finning, in which the sharks’ fins are cut off while the sharks are still alive, and the immobile animals are thrown back into the ocean to die. The fins are used in soup, which is considered a delicacy, and is usually served at weddings, business meetings, and other events meant to impress. Through its multi-faceted campaign, WildAid has helped reduce shark fin consumption by 80% between 2011 and 2016, with wholesale prices declining as much as 67%. Bently Foundation contributed $60,000 to this campaign in 2017 as well.
WildAid also provides logistical support to many other conservations around the world, with a particular focus in Africa. They sometimes serve as fiscal sponsor for organizations which do not have US 501(c)(3) status. A 2017 trip to Africa inspired Christopher and Camille Bently to focus anew on organizations that partner with WildAid in their efforts to conserve the most iconic species on Earth.
Images courtesy of WildAId