Saving threatened habitats worldwide

I am prepared to criticise this particular NGO

17 April, 2013 - 17:00 -- John Burton

A few weeks ago I wrote about the concerns that some conservationists have that NGOs are not critical enough of each other. Well, here goes…

I recently came across a crowd funding website (Indiegogo) that lists a project to reintroduce a type of wild water buffalo that lived in Europe after the last Ice Age.

According to the Wild European Water Buffalo page on the Indiegogo site, a Dutch organisation plans to crossbreed Wild Asiatic Water Buffalo with a European primitive 'domestic' Water Buffalo. The offspring of the crossbreeding will be de-domesticated and used in rewilding projects throughout Europe.

Now I haven’t had any contact with the people involved, so I am not familiar with the project. But my first impression of the campaign web page was entirely negative. To start with, a range of ‘free’ gifts are on offer according to the level of donation (“perks” for donations are a feature of the Indiegogo site), but as everyone knows, there is no such thing as a free lunch, so why offer gifts?

When I tried to find a link from the campaign page to the organisation behind it, Megafauna Foundation, I was unable to do so.

I found Megafauna Foundation’s website, and one thing conspicuously absent was any information about its funding and any annual reports.

Poor fundraising and lack of links to the organisation behind it, and no financial transparency: on the basis of what is on the internet, I am prepared to criticise this particular NGO.

It is perfectly possible (likely, even) that the people behind the project are not only well intentioned, but also very capable and sincere. But if that is the case, they certainly need to improve their web presence.

A Dutch colleague tells me that the people behind the foundation are scientists (and ‘ok’), and agrees that they have no idea about communication or fundraising. My Dutch colleague supports the views I have expressed here. I wonder what Mark Avery would say?


Dear Mister Burton,

This is Henri Kerkdijk-Otten of the Megafauna Foundation.
I think, before criticizing other NGO's it would be a good thing to directly get in contact with the people involved, instead of being informed second hand by a "Dutch colleague".

The explanation for the things you criticism focuses on is very simple; we just started out a few months ago, the Foundation is still taking shape, the website is in its concept stage and we have welcomed some new members recently. The thing on Indiegogo is a tryout and conforms to Indiegogo standards, also including 'perks'. The Foundation will present itself more professionally in the future. We do have expertise in fundraising, wild animals and rewilding.

If you wish to get firsthand information, i welcome you to contact us and we will be glad to answer all questions you might have.

Best wishes,

Henri Kerkdijk-Otten

Submitted by John A Burton on

There were no questions to ask: I was making observations which are perfectly valid. Giving 'gifts' of toys etc is something I oppose. And the information on the website is inadequate. If a website is only at its 'concept stage' it is not sensible to make it live, as it will attract criticism.

I do have questions about the relative importance of creating fake animals as to saving existing endangered species, but that is another issue, which I will address in another blog one day.

Dear Mister Burton,

i was referring to your observations about our organization and capabilities.
A simple email to us would have been enough to get the answers you need. Such as to why we have 'perks' on Indiegogo; it is a standard format of crowd funding on that particular site.

We are prepared to engage in any constructive dialogue, but we do not feel that a blog is the best way to do that.

You are criticizing us of not being professional in our communication. However, criticizing other NGO's based on secondhand information and on a blog without letting that particular NGO know about it, doesn't seem like professional communication either.

In your last sentence I sense an underlying problem, also because you a-priori use words like “creating fake animals”.

Since there are more direct and constructive means of communication, we prefer to use those channels to get into a constructive dialogue.

Best wishes,

Henri Kerkdijk-Otten

Submitted by john on

I went to the water buffalo page to see what happened -- but it appears only $35 was raised

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