My Cause

Peter Knights’ Wild Crusade

By Katie Morell

The Cause: WildAid aims to decrease demand for the multi-billion dollar wildlife trade through public education campaigns. Co-founded in 2000 by Knights, the organization uses advertising principles and A-list celebrities to launch widespread media campaigns with a mission to educate the public on the harmful impacts of buying and selling wildlife products.

Co-founder and CEO: Peter Knights

Budget: $10 million (with an additional $300 million in donated media)

Ambassadors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Lupita Nyong’o, Jackie Chan, Sir Richard Branson

Inspiration: After graduating from college, Knights, who now lives in San Francisco, joined Greenpeace to help expose the decline in the African elephant population. “Between 1975 and 1989, 50 percent had disappeared,” he says. “I started asking, ‘What else is going on?’”

That question led him to understand the horrors of rhino hunting, the ivory trade, the shark fin trade and more. While many wildlife organizations were going after poachers, Knights decided to try decreasing demand for such products through education campaigns. “People think rhinos die of old age and someone picks up the horn off the ground,” he says. “The reality is, rhinos need 24/7 protection. If you buy wildlife products, you are financing that war.”

To get the word out, he enlisted the help of Jackie Chan to film a message about the savagery of poaching and included graphic images. Since then, WildAid has been on a crusade to spread the word to countries around the world through partnerships with global stars such as Yao Ming. (During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the basketball phenom filmed a message to end the consumption of shark fin soup.)

Impact: The effects of WildAid’s efforts have led to things like a complete ban on trade of ivory products to and from China, an 80 percent decrease in shark fin use in China, a 50 percent decrease in rhino horn prices in Vietnam and China and a 78 percent reduction in ivory wholesale prices in Hong Kong and China.

Get Involved: WildAid welcomes donations, and tickets are on sale for its November gala in Beverly Hills. “And don’t buy wildlife products like turtle shells and bits of ivory when you’re traveling,” says Knights. “A lot of that is openly illegal, but may be for sale anyway.”

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