Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Conservation's Dirty Secrets

20 June, 2011 - 09:49 -- John Burton

The World Land Trust welcomes investigations into how the conservation movement operates.

Over the 20 plus years WLT has been in existence, we have striven to be as transparent as possible; we publish our accounts on our website, and have recently started posting summaries of Board meetings.  We also list all staff and make it as easy as possible for the public to contact us.

However, the WLT recognises that there are many small conservation groups, that were they in the Banking industry would be accused of mis-selling.

The WLT has kept its overheads low, does not employ professional fundraisers, and keeps its message simple.  Buying land is one of the most cost-effective ways of conserving the maximum variety of wildlife.  And supporting local NGOs to own and manage that land is the most sustainable way.

The World Land Trust’s Patron, Sir David Attenborough, who has supported the Trust since its launch in 1989, writes:

"You will not save endangered species unless you save the whole ecosystem.  And to save an ecosystem, you need to save the land.  That is what WLT’s project partner NGOs do".

Conservation's Dirty Secrets is a Channel 4 programme, aired on 20th June 2011.

We welcome your comments on this subject below.

Part 2 of this article - Conservation's Dirty Secrets can be found here


Submitted by Angie on

Surely the protection of large mammals is through the protection of large spaces. These large spaces then in turn help to protect the smaller less familiar species. I don’t think it is wrong that WWF or similar are trying to engage the general public by targetting the large ‘more attractive’ species. You can pour money into artificially breeding amphibians but if there is no where to put them back as all the habitat has been converted, then why do it? I am concerned by the stance that this programme is coming from as it seems to be heavily biased against any large conservation organisation. This argument might have its place amongst those who know about wildlife conservation, but when its aimed at those who may not know but are the ones who dig deep, then I think it can give the wrong message and confuse people into doing nothing. Who is this programme aimed at?

Submitted by Kate on

I found it interesting (although at times somewhat sensationalist, especially with the sound effects!). It highlighted some of my concerns about large conservation organisations. From my involvement with climate change and transition towns, there are two particular thoughts that come to mind.

1) That emotions rather than facts change behaviour (think of smokers who only give up when they personally know someone with cancer, despite already having the knowledge that smoking kills). So I can understand why flagship species based ‘marketing/fund raising’ works by pulling on the heartstrings. People find it harder to emotionally connect with invertebrates (I am self-employed educating the public about the ‘creepy crawly’ side of life and it is possible to enthuse people to care about these animals once they meet and understand them).

2) That how you frame the argument is vital. Climate change charities have been ‘selling’ energy efficiency and green living by ‘how much money you’ll save’ – but that perpetuates capitalist ideals of growth and greed. In the long term, that won’t change deeper understanding of the issues or the bigger changes that we are going to need to make. The same argument could then be made about the flagship species method of ‘we’ll get them involved with the big, fluffy ones and caring about the others will follow’ – perhaps not necessarily.

Submitted by chris jenkin on

Yep the presenter didnt seem to have much of a grasp of the finer points of the subject, however the summary at the end was a total vindication of the WLT way of working with local people, getting local involvement and providing alternative income streams. I’m not sure what the point they were trying to make was overall – think they were just looking for sensationalism rather than any in depth review of conservation and large organisations are easy picking. I can see why they use big cuddly things to attract funding and was not sure of the pint they were trying to make. Program could have been much better. Perhaps John Burton should make the next one !

Submitted by News on

For millions of years we have been exploiting our planet and its natural resources but it is only with modern technology that we have tipped the scales to an alarming degree. We are at risk of destroying the very bedrock on which our existence was built.


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