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Top 10 Wildlife Conservation Organizations

A Tour of Top-Notch Wildlife Conservation Groups


Not everyone who is concerned about endangered species and would like to help protect threatened wildlife has the opportunity to get out in the field and do something about it. But even if you're unable to participate in conservation work hands-on, it doesn't mean you're without options. In such situations, a great way to contribute to conservation efforts is to join a conservation organization. In fact, there are dozens of conservation groups available that are devoted to a vast range of conservation goals.

In this article, I list ten of my favorite conservation organizations and explore why I like them, what they do, and how they spend their members' contributions. This is a personal list, an inventory of the first ten organizations that come to mind when I donate my money to protect wildlife. Keep in mind that there are many superb groups available and I'm certain this list could easily be lengthened. Still, if you're new to conservation or are looking for a well-established, reputable organization to join, this list provides a good set of possible groups. 

1. The Nature Conservancy

Grasslands and prairies are among the habitats that The Nature Conservancy focuses its conservation efforts on.
Photo © Danita Delimont / Getty Images.

The Nature Conservancy is my top pick among the many wildlife conservation organizations available today. The Nature Conservancy works with local communities, businesses, and individuals to protect over 100 million acres of land around the world. In doing so, The Nature Conservancy preserves entire wildlife communities and the rich species diversity that inhabits those lands. It's a wholistic approach, one that I feel is vital to the health of our planet.

Among The Nature Conservancy's more innovative conservation approaches is the debt-for-nature swaps. Such transactions ensure biodiversity conservation in exchange for debt owed by a developing country. Such debt-for-nature programs have been successful in many countries including Panama, Peru, and Guatamala.

How they spend their money:

  • 80.2% of expenses go towards conservation projects
  • 11.4% of expenses go towards admininstration
  • 8.3% of expenses go towards fundraising

2. World Wildlife Fund

The giant panda is the WWF flagship species.
Photo © Tier Und Naturfotografie J und C Sohns / Getty Images.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is among my top picks since their work is aimed at protecting biodiversity on a global scale. The WWF works with multilateral and bilateral agencies to promote sustainable development in the world's poorest countries. Its aims are threefold—to protect natural areas and wild populations, to minimize pollution, and to promote efficient, sustainable use of natural resources.

The WWF focuses their efforts at multiple levels, starting with wildlife, habitats and local communities and expanding up through governments and global networks. The WWF views the planet as a single, complex web of relationships between species, the environment, and human institutions such as government and global markets.

How they spend their money:

  • 79.4% of expenses go towards conservation projects
  • 7.3% of expenses go towards admininstration
  • 13.1% of expenses go towards fundraising

3. Natural Resources Defense Council

Photo © David E Myers / iStockphoto.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a superb complement to any portfolio of conservation organization memberships. The NRDC is an environmental action organization that consists of 350 lawyers, scientists, and other professionals and commands a membership of about 1.3 million people. The NRDC uses the law, science, and their wide network of members and activists to protect wildlife and habitats around the globe.

The issues the NRDC focuses on include curbing global warming, creating clean energy, preserving wildlands, restoring ocean habitats, stopping the spread of toxic chemicals, and working towards greener living in China.

How they spend their money:

  • 83.2% of expenses go towards conservation projects
  • 6.0% of expenses go towards admininstration
  • 10.7% of expenses go towards fundraising

4. The Sierra Club

Photo © AngMoKio / Wikimedia Commons.

The Sierra Club was founded by naturalist John Muir in 1892. The Sierra Club is a grassroots organization that works to protect ecological communities, encourage smart energy solutions, and to create an enduring legacy for America's wildernesses. Its current initiatives include coal alternatives, limiting greenhouse emissions, clean energy, green transport, and protecting wildlife communities.

The Sierra Club also is involved in issues such as environmental justice, clean air, clean water, global population, toxic waste, and responsible trade. The Sierra Club offers a variety of outings for its members ranging from backpacking and camping to biking, canoeing, and rafting. It also supports vibrant local chapters that enable club members to become involved in conservation work in their area.

How they spend their money:

  • 87.3% of expenses go towards conservation projects
  • 3.3% of expenses go towards admininstration
  • 9.2% of expenses go towards fundraising

5. International Crane Foundation

Photo © Jim Kruger / iStockphoto.com

The International Crane Foundation (ICF) was established by founders George Archibald and Ron Sauey in 1973 on a horse farm in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The ICF works around the world to protect cranes and the habitats on which they depend. Although they focus on cranes, their work is valuable on a wider scale, giving insights into endangered species management, wetland ecology, habitat restoration, and the critical need for international cooperation.

The ICF provides education about cranes on three levels—local, national, and international. In addition to educating people about cranes, the ICF also conducts captive breeding and reintroduction of cranes into the wild.

How they spend their money:

  • 88.2% of expenses go towards conservation projects
  • 6.1% of expenses go towards admininstration
  • 5.5% of expenses go towards fundraising

6. Friends of Haleakala National Park

Photo &copy Blueye / iStockphoto.

The Friends of Haleakala National Park conservation organization is a personal favorite of mine because they support a wide range of conservation projects to protect Hawaii's unique Haleakala National Park. Their efforts include educational activities, cultural projects, research and service projects. The Friends of Haleakala National Park strives to preserve the ecosystems of Haleakala National Park, to protect the Native Hawaiian cultural, and to preserve the area's scenic character.

Haleakala National Park is located atop Maui's Haleakala volcano and is home to more threatened and endangered species than any other national park in the United States. Among the park's endangered species is the Hawaiian state bird, the Nene. The Friends of Haleakala National Park offers an adopt-a-nene program that raises funds to protect the endangered nene goose from a range of threats including invasive predators such as mongooses, feral cats and rats.

How they spend their money: Sorry, no information is available at this time for this organization.

7. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Photo © Shutterstock.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) began in 1889 as an organization that opposed the inhumane use of exotic feathers in the fashion industry, particularly the use of exotic plumes to adorn the women's hats that were so much in vogue at the time. The RSPB's rules were straightforward-to discourage the mindless destruction of birds, to promote the protection of birds, and to refrain from wearing feathers of any bird.

Today, the RSPB has over 1 million members with a network of 12,200 volunteers all devoted to the protection of birds. The RSPB protects and restores habitat for birds and other wildlife, conducts recovery projects, researches problems facing bird populations, works with landowners and farmers to protect birds, and manages 200 nature reserves. Each year, the RSPB conducts the Big Garden Birdwatch survey, which is a great way for people in the UK to participate in a nation-wide bird count.

How they spend their money: Sorry, no information is available at this time for this organization.

8. Oceana

Photo © Mordoc / Stock.xchng.

I like to contribute to an organization focused entirely on protecting our world's oceans. Oceana enables me to do just that. Oceana seeks to preserve the very core of our planet's health by protecting its oceans. Without healthy oceans, we can scarcely hope for healthy landscapes. Our oceans sustain life on dry land through their role in maintaining the atmosphere we breath, the water we drink, and the food we eat.

Anonther quality I like about Oceana is that they only work on a select handful of campaigns at one time. This better enables them to achieve specific, measurable outcomes. By funneling their efforts in in this way, they stay focused on finding solutions to specific problems.

How they spend their money:

  • 79.3% of expenses go towards conservation projects
  • 14.7% of expenses go towards admininstration
  • 5.9% of expenses go towards fundraising

9. Conservation International

Photo © Muriel Lasure / Shutterstock.

Conservation International employs scientists and policy experts to balance healthy ecosystems with sustainable human use. Conservation International aims to help stabilize global climate, protect fresh water, and ensure human well-being. To achieve their goals they work with indigenous peoples and non-governmental organization. Conservation International's primary initiatives include climate, fresh water, food, health, culture, and biodiversity.

Of all the significant initiatives Conservation International has achieved, its Biodiversity Hotspots project is for me the most impressive. This project identifies and protects biological hotspots—places that exhibit the richest diversity and most threatened collections of plants and animals on our planet.

How they spend their money:

  • 84.6% of expenses go towards conservation projects
  • 10.2% of expenses go towards admininstration
  • 5.1% of expenses go towards fundraising

10. Wildlife Conservation Society

Photo © Wally Stemberger / Shutterstock.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is another superb group working for the protection of animals and wildlife. The WCS supports zoos and aquariums while promoting environmental education and conservation of wild populations and their habitats. They also offer educational resources and a wide variety of conservation programs. Their efforts are focused on a select group of animals including bears, big cats, elephants, great apes, hoofed mammals, cetaceans, and carnivores. Their conservation projects stretch around the globe and are at work in regions including Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, North America, and throughout the world's Oceans.

The Wildlife Conservation Society was established in 1895 as the New York Zoological Society. Its mission was, and is, to promote wildlife protection, foster the study of zoology, and create a top-notch zoo. Today not one but five Wildlife Conservation Zoos exist in the State of New York, the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and the New York Aquarium.

How they spend their money:

  • 84.9% of expenses go towards conservation projects
  • 11.3% of expenses go towards admininstration
  • 3.7% of expenses go towards fundraising
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