9 Best Wildlife Conservation Charities (Complete 2021 List)

9 Best Wildlife Conservation Charities (Complete 2021 List)

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Carla Shaik

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There are around 40,000 species classed as threatened or endangered and this number is only growing more. And while some actions are already taken to stop this trend, there is still much more to be done as deforestation, urbanization, and unsustainable living practices are affecting our wildlife and their habitats. So we had to ask: What are the best wildlife conservation charities?

The best charities for wildlife conservation in terms of overall impact are Re:Wild and the World Wildlife Fund. Charities such as Oceana and the PADI AWARE Foundation do incredible work protecting marine species and cleaning up our oceans.

Whether you want to protect our world’s most vulnerable species or help to restore vital habitats, there is a charity for you. Keep reading to learn more about what the best wildlife conservation charities are all about, how they work, and what your best way would be to make a contribution.

Here’s What All the Best Wildlife Conservation Charities Have in Common

The charities on this list were chosen based on their mission, impact and transparency ratings, and achievements. They operate all over the world, from Africa to the diverse Galapagos islands, cleaning our oceans and protecting endangered species from extinction.

Many of the charities on this list focus their efforts on protecting and expanding essential conservation areas and national parks. Others focus their attention on cleaning up our oceans and investing in sustainable living practices for the future. Yet all of them share the same goal – to preserve our natural planet and all of its inhabitants for generations to come. 

These Are the 9 Best Wildlife Conservation Charities

Below are our favorite wildlife conservation charities (you can click on their link to directly jump to their section in this article):

(At the end of this article we’ll also share our six-step approach on how you can select the best charity to support.)

Re:Wild: For All Wildkind 

Re:Wild was relaunched in 2021 after three decades of working as the Global Wildlife Conservation Organization, alongside famous actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Today, the charity works to protect and restore the diversity of life on earth through innovative collaborations and scientific advancements. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: According to their financial report, Re:Wild Spent 92% of its income on conservation and restoration programs, 1% on fundraising, and 7% on management. The charity also has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.

“To protect and restore the wild to build a thriving Earth where all life flourishes.”

Re:Wild

What they do: Re:Wild protects and restores the diversity of life on earth through collaborations with governments, like-minded organizations, and local communities. They particularly focus on restoring land in the world’s Key Biodiversity Areas, which are essential for the survival of numerous endangered species and ecosystems. In addition, they work with earth guardians on the ground, including park rangers, to tackle wildlife crime and habitat destruction.

What they’ve achieved: To date, Re:Wild has protected and conserved over 279 million acres of land that has benefited more than 16,000 species, including over 500 severely threatened species. In 2020, the charity focused on 95 focal species in 89 countries. Their work in the Amazon has brought the Tasmanian Devil back to the island for the first time in over 3,000 years

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Re:Wild through their website. You can also support the charity by signing one of their petitions to protect vulnerable wildlife.

World Wildlife Fund: Working to Help People and Nature Thrive

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) was founded in 1961 by Victor Stolan after he read a series of new articles written by Sir Julian Huxley on habitat and wildlife destruction in East Africa. Today, the charity is the world’s leading conservation organization, running conservation projects in 100 countries around the globe.

Their impact and transparency ratings: The World Wildlife Fund holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. The charity also has a 3-star rating from Charity Navigator.

“To conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.”

World Wildlife Fund

What they do: The World Wildlife Fund works to reduce the worst global issues threatening our earth’s diversity by working with local communities and international businesses to promote sustainable living practices. The charity also runs conservation projects to protect endangered animal species including rhinos, tigers, and marine turtles, by mitigating human-animal conflict, monitoring animal populations, and supporting the protection of vital habitats.

What they’ve achieved: In 2019, the World Wildlife Fund invested £29 million into conservation projects and climate change initiatives. In the same year, the charity assisted in the creation of an ambitious transboundary conservation program across 134,000 sq km along the border of Kenya and Tanzania. This pathway has created safe passage for millions of wildebeests. Thanks to the work of the WWF, tiger populations in Nepal have nearly doubled in just 10 years. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the World Wildlife Fund through their website. You can also support the charity by symbolically adopting an animal or by purchasing items from their online shop.

Wildlife Conservation Society: We Stand for Wildlife

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) was founded in 1895 as the New York Zoological Society by a group of wildlife advocates including Andrew H. Green and Henry F. Osborn. The charity’s name was changed to the Wildlife Conservation Society in 1993. Today, the charity works to conserve the world’s 14 largest wild regions which are home to over 50% of the world’s diversity. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Wildlife Conservation Society holds the Silver Seal of Transparency from GuideStar and a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.

“Saving wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.”

Wildlife Conservation Society

What they do: The Wildlife Conservation Society utilizes the knowledge of their scientists, consisting of 170 PhDs and DVMs, to improve conservation efforts for a range of threatened species worldwide. They do this by working with local governments to increase the size of national parks and protected wilderness areas, as well as working to prevent poaching through the use of SMART conservation tools. They focus their efforts on protecting the most endangered wide-ranging species including elephants, sharks, turtles, and big cats. 

What they’ve achieved: Today, the Wildlife Conservation Society actively protects wildlife and wild places in 60 countries, as well as across the oceans. Through their Climate Adaptation Fund, the charity has donated $21.9 million to support wildlife adaptation in the US in response to global warming. The charity has also helped nations and communities to build and manage 245 national wildlife reserves

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Wildlife Conservation Society through their website. You can also support the charity by symbolically adopting an animal or by signing one of their numerous petitions to prevent animal suffering and support wildlife conservation initiatives.

Oceana: Protecting the World’s Oceans

Oceana was founded in 2001 by a group of organizations, including the Oak Foundation, after a 1999 study found that less than 0.5% of all resources spent by environmental organizations in the US went to ocean advocacy. Today, the charity is the largest international advocacy organization for ocean conservation in the world.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Oceana holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar and a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.

“Dedicated to protecting and restoring the world’s oceans on a global scale.”

Oceana

What they do: Oceana works to make our oceans more diverse and abundant by advocating for changes to government policies that directly impact the world’s marine life. The charity particularly focuses on tracking harmful fisheries that are causing high levels of bycatch and running unsustainable practices. They also focus on reducing pollution in our oceans and protecting the most endangered marine species by campaigning for cleaner energy sources such as off-shore wind power.

What they’ve achieved: To date, Oceana has protected nearly 4 million square miles of ocean, and has won over 225 policy victories for marine wildlife. In June 2021, after years of campaigning by Oceana, NOAA Fisheries issued a final rule to protect over 25,000 miles of deep-sea coral habitat from destructive fishing gear. In 2014, the charity also teamed up with Google and Skytruth to create Global Fishing Truth which provides 24-hour watch over the oceans to increase transparency in the fishing sector and identify areas in need of conservation.

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Oceana through their website. You can also support the charity by purchasing items from their online gift store or by attending one of their numerous annual fundraising and awareness events.

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust: Re-Wild Our World

The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust was founded in 1963 by world-renowned conservationist Gerald Durrell. Its headquarters are based in the Durrell Wildlife Park in Jersey, which was set up in 1959 as a sanctuary and breeding center for endangered species. Today, the charity operates 50 conservation projects in 18 countries around the globe.

Their impact and transparency ratings: According to their financial report, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust spent 69% of its income on charitable activities, 28% on raising funds, and 3% on investment and other expenses. 

“Saving species from extinction.”

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

What they do: The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust manages breeding programs at the Durrell Wildlife Park, with the intention of releasing them back into the wild. Their Global Conservation Program focuses on the world’s most threatened places and their native species, including the Caribbean Islands and Madagascar. In addition, they run multiple workshops to train conservationists in biological and cross-disciplinary skills so they have the tools to run successful wildlife conservation programs.

What they’ve achieved: To date, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust has moved or released over 4,100 individual animals of 23 species into safe wild habitats. Thanks to the work of the charity, the population of Mauritius Kestrels has shot up from just 4 individuals in 1974 to over 350 today. According to the Red List Index, the charity has increased the survival rate for its target species by 67%.

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust through their website. Alternatively, you can support the charity by symbolically adopting an animal or by purchasing items from their online shop

PADI AWARE Foundation: Local Action. Global Impact

PADI AWARE Foundation was founded in 1992 as part of the PADI organization (the largest scuba diving organization in the world), to drive local action for global ocean conservation. Today, the charity is the largest and fastest-growing underwater citizen science movement in the world. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The PADI AWARE Foundation holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. According to their financial report, the charity spent 39% of its income on tackling global marine debris, and 31% on protecting vulnerable marine species.

“To address the key threats facing the marine environment.”

PADI AWARE Foundation

What they do: PADI AWARE Foundation engages the public to remove plastics and other debris from our oceans through their Dive Against Debris Program. Volunteers can even see their impact via the charity’s innovative Dive Against Debris Global Map. In addition, the charity is working to conserve the 300 threatened shark and ray species by promoting sustainable tourism and by running shark conservation programs for the public.

What they’ve achieved: To date, the PADI AWARE Foundation has removed 2 million pieces of debris from the oceans, with the help of their 128,000 professional diving members. The charity has also educated over 1 million divers on the threats facing our oceans, as well as how to tackle them. In 2020, the charity rescued 1,585 entangled marine animals from fishing nets and removed 42,519kgs of debris. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the PADI AWARE Foundation through their website. You can also support the charity by setting up your own fundraiser. If you are a professional PADI registered diver you can also adopt a dive site to help protect the ocean.

Defenders Of Wildlife: Making a Difference for North America’s Wildlife

Defenders Of Wildlife was founded in 1947 by life-long devoted conservationist Jamie Rappaport Clark. Today, Jamie is recognized as a leading national expert on the Endangered Species Act, and her charity is now the premier wildlife conservation organization for the protection of North America’s wildlife and their habitats.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Defenders Of Wildlife holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, as well as a 3-star rating from Charity Navigator.

“Dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.”

Defenders Of Wildlife

What they do: Defenders Of Wildlife works on the ground and with government organizations to protect and preserve North America’s wild places and the species that reside in them. They do this by developing recovery plans for threatened species, and by assisting in the creation of wildlife corridors to mitigate human-wildlife conflict. In addition, the charity is working with natural resource managers and planners to implement strategies and adaptive conservation plans to help imperiled species cope with environmental changes caused by climate change

What they’ve achieved: To date, Defenders Of Wildlife has developed over 100 collaborative projects to prevent conflicts with grizzly bears and wolves, which has directly impacted population levels. In addition, the charity has contributed to the survival of the endangered Scarlet Macaw, bringing the population in the Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve up to 157 individuals. In 1987 the charity launched a conservation initiative to rescue the last remaining red wolves and place them into a captive breeding facility. By 2005, the population had grown to 150 individuals.

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Defenders Of Wildlife through their website. You can also support the charity by symbolically adopting an animal or by becoming a member of the charity.

Charles Darwin Foundation: Protecting the Diverse Galapagos Islands

The Charles Darwin Foundation was founded in 1959 by a group of conservationists, including Sir Julian Huxley and Victor Van Straelen, as part of a general post World War II movement to set up international conservation organizations. Today, the charity focuses on conserving the ecology of the Galapagos islands, which provide homes for species not seen anywhere else on the planet.

Their impact and transparency ratings: According to their financial report, the Charles Darwin Foundation spent 65.8% of its income on science, conservation, and education projects, 7% on fundraising, and 25% on other expenses including administration.

“To provide knowledge and assistance through scientific research and complementary action to ensure the conservation of the environment and biodiversity in the Galapagos Archipelago.”

Charles Darwin Foundation

What they do: The Charles Darwin Foundation works closely with the Galapagos National Park Directorate to protect the diverse fauna and flora on the Galapagos islands. Through the Charles Darwin Research Station, the charity works on conservation initiatives, research projects, and sustainable development projects to ensure the islands are well-managed. In addition, they work to conserve endangered species on the islands such as the iconic Giant Tortoise, and work to reduce numbers of invasive species that threaten native species populations.

What they’ve achieved: In 2020, the Charles Darwin Foundation discovered 61 previously unknown species on the Galapagos islands which reinforces the importance of these islands. Their natural history collection now holds over 80,000 specimens making it the largest repository of Galapagos species in the world. In addition, they awarded 11 scholarship programs and involved 236 primary and secondary school pupils in their ECO-Program to increase environmental awareness. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Charles Darwin Foundation through their website. You can also support the charity and assist in the protection of the Galapagos islands by becoming a member of the Pristine Galapagos Society.

Practical Action: Building a Better Future for People and Our Planet

Practical Action was founded in 1966 as an advisory center by economist and philosopher E.F. ‘Fritz’ Schumacher. For years he advocated against the transfer of modern, large-scale technologies to poorer countries as he didn’t believe they could cope with them. Today, his charity focuses on helping poorer communities around the world to develop sustainable farming and energy techniques that help the planet.

Their impact and transparency ratings: According to their financial report, Practical Action spent 92% of its income on charitable activities and 8% on fundraising. 

“We work towards a world that benefits everyone.”

Practical Action

What they do: Practical Action works with the poorest communities in underdeveloped countries to provide them with the tools to develop sustainable energy resources, such as solar and hydra, and sustainable farming methods that protect the environment. Their Green Growth program aims to solve current environmental issues, such as climate change and deforestation, by encouraging communities to adopt green technologies.

What they’ve achieved: Between 2019 and 2020, Practical Action invested £35 million in 105 sustainable living projects that benefited over 5 million people. The charity also spent £9.7 million on renewable and natural energy sources that were used by nearly 600,000 people in 2020. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Practical Action through their website. You can also support the charity by purchasing items on their wish list or through fundraising.

How Can You Select the Best Charities to Support?

The charities on the list are, we deem, the best wildlife conservation charities. However, you may have a particular charity you want to support. Let’s look at what you can do to ensure your contribution has the most significant impact.

  • Check out the charity website. Charities that are worthy of your donations are transparent in their mission and their figures. Familiarise yourself with their history, mission, and values. Their website usually is the best place to start.
  • Identify the charity’s mission. Without a goal, the charity is likely to fail. If the charity’s mission isn’t clear, it’s probably worth looking for a charity that does have a clear mission. 
  • Check if the charity has measurable goals. An effective charity has clear goals. You want to know your donation will help the charity reach its goals. But if it doesn’t have targets, it’s likely to fail or squander your gift. The charity should be able to account for its spending and supply evidence of the work they do.
  • Assess the successes or goals the charity has achieved. You wouldn’t invest in a business if it kept missing its targets. In the same way, charities are like this too. If no one is assessing the progress a charity makes in reaching its targets, the chances are not making positive change.
  • Check the charity’s financials and stats. Trustworthy organizations will publish financial statements and reports each year. Some might be exempt from having to do so, but they should be able to provide them to public members who are interested in donating.
  • Locate sources who work with or benefit from the charity. Word of mouth and first-hand experience of a charity’s work lets you know the charity’s quality. If you’re able to do so, check out the charity for yourself or speak to someone familiar with it. This way, your donation will go to the right place. 

How Can You Best Support These Charities?

After you’ve made your decision, it’s time for you to decide on how you’d like to help the charities you’ve chosen. Check how you can help – each charity runs specific programs that have unique aims. Find out what the aim of such programs is and whether they are right for you. 

Here are a few ways you can help your chosen charity:

  • Donate money. You can find donation pages on the website of most charities. Your donation can be a one-time payment, or you can set it to be deducted regularly at different intervals. You can mostly pay via credit card, but some charities also take PayPal or Bitcoin payments.
  • Buy their official merchandise. The charities can also raise money by selling merchandise. So, you can support them by buying the mugs, shirts, caps, pens, pencils, and any other such items they may be selling. Ideally, you should buy as much as you can to share and spread the word about the charity’s activities.
  • Donate a percentage of your online purchases. If you bought anything on sites like Amazon lately, you’d find a prompt asking you to donate to your favorite charities through their Amazon Smile program. You can set this up so that your chosen charities will get a fraction of your online purchases.
  • Engage in volunteer work. As you’ve seen from our descriptions above, some charities engage in a lot of local and grassroots programs. You can help by taking on and organizing the program in your local area.
  • Help their fundraising efforts. You can spread the word about the charity in your workplace, school, church, etc., and hold creative fundraising drives on social media or offline within your small circles.
  • Share their stories. Most charities have compelling stories that you can share with your audience to attract more people to the cause.

Final Thoughts

Now it is just up to you to select the charity that resonates most with you. And whichever charity you end up choosing and contributing to, we are sure that they will immensely appreciate your support. Hopefully, the information within this article has made this selection process a bit easier for you to support charities dedicated to wildlife conservation – based on the causes that matter most to you.

Stay impactful,

PS: Finally, I want to leave you with a thought-provoking TED talk from Dan Pallotta, a leading philanthropic activist, and fundraiser, about what is wrong with the way we think about charities – and what we can do about it:

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