On leaving school, John joined the staff of the Natural History Museum in London, and worked as an Assistant information Officer. He left in 1969 to pursue a freelance career initially as a natural history writer and journalist, but soon moved into conservation.
With an extensive background in both journalism and conservation, John Burton has worked across many high profile international environmental organisations for the last 30 years including Friends of the Earth and as chief executive of Fauna and Flora International. He set up the first TRAFFIC offices of the Species Survival Commission (SSC) for IUCN, has been involved with the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Unit and was founding chairman of the Bat Conservation Trust.
John has also been a regular columnist with New Scientist, assistant editor of Animals magazine (now BBC Wildlife Magazine) and, in particular, a natural history author specialising in field guides including guides to European Mammals, North American Mammals and European Reptiles and Amphibians. John has also written six children’s books and edited several multi-author works including the National Trust Book of British Wildlife, Owls of the World and the Atlas of Endangered Species. He has also written several books on garden wildlife. He has written or edited over 40 books (see the bibliography of books by John A Burton).
As a consultant he has worked for a wide range of government, intergovernment and commercial agencies, including USAID, the World Bank, CITES, DFID, HarperCollins, Wade Furniture Ltd, and English Nature. He regularly carries out consultancy particularly relating to endangered species listings (utilising one of the foremost collections of Red Data Books), and recently has specialised in training conservationists, with particular respect to fundraising for land purchase and also establishing small NGOs.
In the 1970s and 1980s John was a regular broadcaster, and this included being a presenter for Countrysearch and with Johnny Morris in Animal Magic, as well as regular broadcasts on the BBC World Service. Working with the Wildscreen Trust he also carried out the feasibility study which ultimately led to the creation of Arkive, in Bristol.
In 1989 John founded the World Land Trust (WLT) and has been its CEO ever since. The Trust has raised over £19million for conservation since its inception 22 years ago, purchasing and protecting land in Africa, Asia and Central and South America.
In 2005, John was appointed a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Biology of the University of East Anglia (Norwich), in recognition of the WLT's work with its students. The Diploma course in Conservation and Project Administration was a collaboration between the University of East Anglia and WLT. In 2005, John was appointed to the Editorial Statutory Board of BBC Wildlife Magazine, and from 2007-2008 he was a Trustee of the newly created BBC Wildlife Fund.
John received an Honorary Doctorate from University Campus Suffolk in October 2012 in honour of his work for international environmental organisations over the past 30 years.
Watch a video about the history of WLT: