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.
WCN's 20th Anniversary
In 2022, we continued to grow our Conservation Network by adding more new Partners in a single year than any other since WCN first launched. These five new Partners included Conservation Through Public Health (protecting mountain gorillas in Uganda), Macaw Recovery Network, MareCet (protecting marine mammals in Malaysia), Hutan (protecting orangutans in Malaysian Borneo), and Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association (protecting grey crowned cranes), bringing our Network to 22 organizations across the globe. We also celebrated our 20th Anniversary and raised a record $44.8 million for conservation.
The Present and Future
WCN is continually working on expanding our programs to protect more wildlife around the world. 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.