WCN protects endangered wildlife by supporting conservationists who ensure wildlife and people coexist and thrive.
WCN is Founded
WCN was founded in 2002 on the premise that one person can truly make a difference for wildlife. Since its inception, WCN’s objective has been to equip effective conservationists with the tools and resources they need to succeed.
With this core mission in mind, we welcomed six independent field-based conservationists into our partner Network for the first time: Cheetah Conservation Fund, Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Project, Okapi Conservation Project, Save the Elephants, Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation, and Snow Leopard Conservancy.
In addition, we held our first Wildlife Conservation Expo in Los Altos Hills, CA, providing conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts with a place to connect and share ideas.
Over the next four years, we welcomed five more pioneering conservationists into the Network, expanding our impact for wildlife to Zimbabwe, Central Asia, and further into South America: Andean Cat Alliance and Cheetah Conservation Botswana in 2003; Painted Dog Conservation in 2004; Proyecto Tití, and Saiga Conservation Alliance in 2006.
We began the WCN Scholarship Program in 2006, providing funding and support to emerging young conservationists around the world.
Additionally, we expanded our geographic reach, moving our Wildlife Conservation Expos from Los Altos Hills to San Francisco.
Onward and Upward: New Partners and the Elephant Crisis Fund
With our partner Save the Elephants, WCN launched the Elephant Crisis Fund (ECF) to address the ivory crisis spreading across Africa—which had killed an estimated 200,000 elephants in just six years. The ECF was created to stop elephant poaching, end trafficking and demand for ivory, and secure a future for elephants.
We grew the WCN Network by welcoming three new partners: Niassa Lion Project in 2010, Grevy’s Zebra Trust in 2012, and Ewaso Lions in 2013.
Growing Our Network
In 2016, WCN doubled our presence in Latin America by adding three new partners: Global Penguin Society, MarAlliance (protecting sharks and rays), and Spectacled Bear Conservation. The addition of Spectacled Bear Conservation marked the first time bears joined the ranks of species our partners protect. Additionally, Global Penguin Society and MarAlliance represented WCN’s first marine focused conservation efforts and expanded our work to a truly global scale.
In the U.S., we held four Wildlife Conservation Expos, bringing our partners’ inspirational work to new audiences in Houston, Chicago, and northern California.
Our Biggest Impact Yet
In partnership with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, we launched the Lion Recovery Fund in 2017 to recover lion populations and their habitat across Africa. We also established the Pangolin Crisis Fund in 2019 with Save Pangolins to raise awareness about the most trafficked mammal in the world and help save them from extinction.
Thanks to our committed and passionate donors, we raised over $141 million to date for wildlife conservation as of year-end 2019.
Resilience in Crisis
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought global hardship and uncertainty causing conservationists to face unprecedented hurdles and loss of funding. We created an Emergency Relief Fund to help conservationists continue core programs, keep people in the field protecting wildlife, and aid local communities that are key to conservation.
Additionally, as we were unable to host in-person events, we took our Wildlife Conservation Expos to a digital stage. This allowed us to triple the number of attendees and connect people from over 60 countries.
We also launched the Rhino Recovery Fund to protect and bolster all five species of rhino, safeguard their landscapes, and combat wildlife criminals.
The Present and Future
WCN is continually working on expanding our programs to protect more wildlife around the world. In 2022, we added five new Partners, bringing our Conservation Network to 22 organizations across the globe. We continue to bring supporters and conservationists together through our annual Wildlife Conservation Expos and we proudly retain our four star Charity Navigator rating.
We look forward to strengthening our impact for years to come.
Founding Wildlife Conservation Network
Charlie Knowles and Akiko Yamazaki had three very important things in common; they were both products of Silicon Valley’s culture of innovation, they were both philanthropists eager to invest in worthwhile causes, and they were both wildlife lovers. In 2001, they met at a time in each of their lives where they were looking to bring these qualities together to do something transformative. They first crossed paths as a result of a reception Charlie was hosting for the world’s most beloved conservationist, Jane Goodall, an auspicious way to spark new efforts to save wildlife. With wildlife species going extinct at an alarming rate, Charlie and Akiko wanted to find a new conservation model to reverse the trend.
Charlie had been having similar discussions about finding new ways to protect wildlife with John Lukas, a seasoned conservationist and director of the White Oak Conservation Center at the time. The three of them joined forces and created the Wildlife Conservation Network, a great combination of John’s invaluable conservation knowledge and Charlie and Akiko’s entrepreneurial backgrounds.
Together, these founders had a shared objective: apply their conservation experience, business acumen, and entrepreneurial know-how to support small scale conservationists with big potential AND help donors support these conservationists in an efficient and effective way. These are still the primary pillars of WCN’s work.
Although Akiko Yamazaki, Charlie Knowles, and John Lukas get the credit for founding the Wildlife Conservation Network, WCN was really born from the collective vision of thousands of conservationists and supporters. Since its beginning, WCN has embodied this spirit of community and collaboration, celebrating the contribution of each individual while simultaneously espousing an “it takes a village” attitude.
WCN started with a couple of employees working out of Co-founder Charlie Knowles’ guest house, raising $300,000 in its first year; it has since grown to a San Francisco-based office with a 34-person staff who raised over $44 million for conservation last year. Though we have grown our Partner Network, staff, and dollars raised for conservation, our core values remain the same.
We do it for wildlife.
Our wildlife conservation focus is inspirational and drives our desires and choices to have the highest quality impact as possible. We are passionate about our work, as individuals, as a team, and as a network, and believe we can all make unique contributions for the greater good of wildlife and people.
We spend money as if our 86-year-old grandmother had given it to us to do good.
We respect and cherish the trust and financial investments our donors make in us, and honor it with our transparency, accountability, and efficiency. We embrace doing more with less, striving for nimble and non-bureaucratic support, and seeking smarter ways to maximize returns on investments without compromising financial integrity and service quality.
It’s amazing what you can get done if you don’t care who gets the credit.
The challenges we face are best served by diverse and inclusive approaches, excellent communication, transparency, trust, mutual respect, and humility. We welcome and appreciate all that everyone does for wildlife conservation and leverage our respective strengths to make the whole more than the sum of the parts.
We foster a culture of abundance that considers the “and” before the “or."
We generously give support in whatever ways we can (financial, time, skills, trust, spirit, …) to help each other as a team, as a network, and as a community.
There’s always more to try and to learn.
Data informs our decisions and constant quest for self-improvement and innovation. As an organization or as individuals, we hold ourselves accountable and welcome, solicit, and act upon metrics, facts, and feedback to document our results and impacts. Without fear of failure, we analytically seek innovations and refinements to implement the best strategies and tactics going forward.
We strive to go above and beyond expectations.
Whether it is with donors, conservationists or our staff, we go the extra mile to listen, to be engaged, fair, honest, empathetic, helpful, and to do what we say we are going to do. We are present and engaged with everyone, listening to their needs and aspirations to deliver experiences beyond their expectations.
People make conservation happen—they are its greatest resource.
Our work starts and ends with choices people make here and abroad. We value the contributions people make, and recognize that to give the best of ourselves to our mission, we must also take care of ourselves and others and strive for a balanced, safe, and healthy lifestyle.
We’re all in this together.
We create, foster, and grow a respectful and supportive community—starting with our team and extending to our conservation network, donors, and beyond.
Trust and Your Privacy
Your support is extremely important to us; we greatly value your trust and your privacy. Therefore, we do not sell or trade the personal information of our donors, we keep all donor information confidential and treat it with the respect we would treat our own.