WILD Foundation

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WILD Foundation
Founded 1974
Type 501 (c)(3) non-profit
  • Boulder, Colorado
Area served
Product Global Conservation Fund
Key people
Vance G. Martin, President; Charlotte Baron, Board Chair
Slogan Protecting through connecting: wilderness, wildlife and people
Website http://wild.org

The WILD Foundation is a non-profit organization, belonging to category 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, that was founded in 1974 by South African Ian Player, and based in Boulder, Colorado. WILD states that their vision is to inspire a world that protects at least half of all nature on Earth in a connected way for the benefit of wilderness and communities.

WILD works in three sectors: policy and applied research, with decision-makers in government, business, and community; field projects that integrate the needs of wilderness, wildlife and people; and communications, through publishing, media and the arts. The WILD Foundation is known for approaching wilderness conservation by training managers of protected areas, developing approaches to conservation, cooperatively launching new organizations and working with communities to protect nature.

Their work spans continents, from the Mali Elephant Project and In the Tracks of Giants in Africa to CAT in WATER, a fishing cat media project in Thailand; to the Kayapo of the Brazilian Amazon and work close to their home in Boulder.


The WILD Foundation was founded in 1974 by South African game ranger Dr. Ian Player. One of his most notable conservation contributions prior to forming The WILD Foundation was his 1960s work to save the white rhino from extinction, called Operation Rhino.[1] Recent escalations in rhino poaching[2] have brought this story back to the forefront of WILD’s efforts.

After leaving the government wildlife service, Player founded The Wilderness Leadership School (WLS), taking people of all ages—especially those from underserved communities and leaders from all sectors – on five-day reflective hikes in the African wilderness. Started during apartheid, this school was the first organization in Africa giving its participants, called "trailists," a thorough wilderness experience regardless of background, race or nationality. The Wilderness Leadership School helped give rise to similar schools around the world.

In 1974, the ideas of conservation, spirit, science and culture that inspired the Wilderness Leadership School expanded into the concept that became The WILD Foundation and WILD's sister organizations in The Wilderness Network. Afrikaner author and war hero Sir Laurens van der Post worked closely with Dr. Player in the early days of WILD and was a founding member of the board of directors, serving until 1987. Originally named the International Wilderness Leadership Foundation, the organization began doing business as The WILD Foundation in 1988. WILD has been a member of the World Commission on Protected Areas (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) since 1988, and founder/co-chair of the IUCN Wilderness Specialist Group.

Since its founding, The WILD Foundation has worked on scores of field projects in dozens of countries. In 1983, The WILD Foundation established the World Wilderness Congress, the longest running international forum for the environment. The WILD Foundation has helped foster organizations, such as the Cheetah Conservation Fund based in Namibia, noted National Geographic photographer James Balog's Extreme Ice Survey, and the International League of Conservation Photographers, a consortium of the world's top photographers dedicated to "furthering environmental and cultural conservation through ethical photography."

For six years until about 2010, WILD and iLCP partnered with CEMEX Corporation to produce a book series, drawing attention to such topics as biodiversity, the human footprint, transboundary conservation and climate change. In 2004, The WILD Foundation worked with CEMEX Corporation and other NGOs to consolidate CEMEX's conservation projects in the Maderas del Carmen region in northern Mexico. The Maderas del Carmen was the first “declared,” managed wilderness area in Latin America,[3] and the first such area in the world owned and managed by a major private sector corporation. This work was part of the 9th World Wilderness Congress, and led to the establishment of an “Area of Bi-National Environmental Interest”[4] straddling 10 million acres of Texas/Mexico border.[5] This area was supported by presidents Barack Obama and Felipe Calderón and signed into law in November 2011.[6]

The World Wilderness Congress[edit]

The World Wilderness Congress (WWC) is the world’s longest-running, public conservation project and environmental forum. Science, management, government, academia, native leaders, youth, business, advocates and artists come together to work towards positive and practical outcomes for nature and society.

The congress began with a conversation between friends. Founder Dr. Ian Player and his Zulu mentor Magqubu Ntombela were sitting on the banks of the Umfolozi River in 1974 when they came up with the idea for the congress. Magqubu turned to Ian and said, “We are doing good work,but we need to do more. We should call an INDABA-KULU, a great gathering, for all people to come together for wilderness."

Three years later, the first World Wilderness Congress convened in South Africa. The event introduced the concept of wilderness as an issue of international importance to all people in all countries. The congress has become WILD’s flagship program and has convened nine times on five continents, drawing thousands of people from around the world. World leaders, such as Mexico's President Felipe Calderón (2009), Norway’s Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland (1987), Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser (1980); conservation legends Dr. Jane Goodall and Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton; Nobel Laureates such as Dr. Thor Heyerdahl, Dr. Wangari Maathai, Dr. Mario Molina; tribal and community leaders such as Tashka Yawanawa, Oren Lyons, Maqgubu Ntombela; the heads of major international corporations; and hundreds of budding conservationists have participated in the congress.

World Wilderness Congress Locations[edit]

Nature Needs Half[edit]

At the 9th World Wilderness Congress in Mérida, Mexico, WILD with the collaboration of a broad spectrum of international organizations, governments and individuals, officially debuted Nature Needs Half, a social movement to protect and connect at least half of all nature on Earth, land and water, in order to support the existence of nature and the services it provides.

Nature Needs Half is an idea put forth by the WILD Foundation and meant to be taken up as a common banner by any person or organization endeavoring to protect wild places. Marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle and Dr. Jane Goodall have endorsed Nature Needs Half, with Dr. Earle's only criticism being that “hoped that half would be enough.”

Nature Needs Half was a concept born of sound science, based on reports from a collection of scientific papers stating that to protect the services and health of an environment, at least half of the habitat needs to be protected. Since its inception, WILD has begun collecting and conducting case studies of places around the world that have, or are on track to achieve, at least half protection.

Important Quotes from Notable Figures[edit]

“Nature Needs Half applies to the waters of the world as well as the land, from the tops of mountains to the greatest depths of the sea. More than half of the world is ocean, the blue heart of the planet. You decide: How much of your heart do you need to stay alive?” -Sylvia Earle, 2011

“Half the world for humanity, half for the rest of life, to make a planet both self-sustaining and pleasant.” -E.O. Wilson, The Future of Life, 2002

Case Studies[edit]


  • Tracks of Giants - Following ancient African elephant migration paths
  • Forever Wild Rhino Protection - collects information on the persons involved with the poaching of rhinos, to better deter and detain poachers.
  • Zulu Village Project - works to build local leadership and economy while fostering cultural traditions and environmental stewardship with the Zulu people.
  • Quicama National Park - works with the Kissama Foundation the organization that oversees the park and other conservation efforts in Angola, ranges from capacity building to paying park staff.
  • Umzi Wethu - Training AIDS orphans and Vulnerable Youth for Conservation Employment[7]
  • The Mali Elephant Project - Saving the very last herd of elephants in the arid Sahel[8]
  • CAT in WATER - is a multimedia expedition to track and document the elusive fishing cat, of which only about 10,000 remain in the world.
  • The Kayapo - work with the Kayapo to strengthen their capacity for territorial protection and sustainable resource management.
  • North American Cooperation on Wilderness - signed by seven North American government agencies at WILD9, the 9th World Wilderness Congress (WWC)
  • Transboundary Canada - works with partners in Canada and the United States to permanently protect the Flathead River, joining it the Waterton Glacier International Peace Park
  • Wilderness Conservation Painting Expedition - artist Beatriz Padilla visits and paints wildland areas around the world, engaging local communities along the way
  • Extreme Ice Survey - photographer James Balog documents short-term, rapid changes in glaciers, caused by global warming.
  • WILD Cities - Regenerating and celebrating wild nature in and around urban areas to improve quality of life for all.
  • CoalitionWILD - A global movement of rising leaders creating a wilder world


Wilderness Foundation Global[edit]

The WILD Foundation is a founding member of Wilderness Foundation Global, a consortium of independent, like-minded organizations. Wilderness Foundation Global works worldwide to:

  • Protect and sustain wilderness, wildlife and human communities;
  • Promote the values and services provide by wildlands and seas; and,
  • Provide wilderness-related information, education, experience and training.

The members of Wilderness Foundation Global are: WILD Foundation (US), The Wilderness Foundation (SA), The Wilderness Foundation (UK), and the Wilderness Leadership School (SA).



External links[edit]