Wildlife Conservation Programs

The world is facing serious challenges. The number of endangered species are increasing, habitats are disappearing and the pressures of human consumption on the planet continue to grow.

The Situation

The current rate of species extinction is estimated to be 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate. Globally, population sizes of wildlife dropped a staggering 60 per cent between 1970 and 2014. These disappearing and endangered species form the fabric of the ecosystems that sustain life on Earth.

Saving species, protecting habitats and promoting sustainable living are challenges that require a global approach based on sound science. We depend on other species in a multitude of ways – most of which we are completely unaware of. The basic elements that we need for life – food, water and air – require functioning ecosystems with all their species working together in their various roles.

But the benefits species bring to our lives are much wider reaching, such as when scientists discover how a plant or animal can alleviate a human ailment; when climate change is mitigated through carbon storage; when cultural integrity and inspiration is enriched; when someone builds bio steel out of spider silk; or when car manufacturers build safer vehicles based on the biological design of a fish.

Some benefits are harder to quantify like the beauty of a majestic whale breaching on the open ocean or the calmness you feel when walking along a forest path. All of these benefits come from wildlife conservation and protecting the species we share this planet with. Our home—this earth—would feel empty without other creatures in the forests, oceans and mountains that we love.

Currently, there are 15 conservation programs we are working on nationally and globally, including:

Community Conservation programs

  • Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary
  • Lemurs
  • Mountain bongo
  • Sitatunga

Conservation Translocation programs

  • Vancouver Island marmot
  • Burrowing owl
  • Whooping crane
  • Fisher
  • Half-moon hairstreak butterfly
  • Northern leopard frog
  • Greater sage-grouse
  • Swift fox
  • Black-tailed prairie dog and black-footed ferret
  • Sihek (Guam kingfisher)
  • Carolinian forest species

Wildlife Conservation Makes Economic Sense

Globally, the goods and services that ecosystems provide were estimated at $125 trillion US per year—about 3 times the Gross World Product. Wildlife conservation is an excellent investment with benefits outweighing costs by a factor of 100.

If the current mass extinction is allowed to proceed, we will feel those impacts in our lifetime. The living world took millions of years to re-diversify after past mass extinctions. Avoiding this sixth mass extinction will require rapid, greatly intensified efforts to conserve already threatened species. We must act now. The window of opportunity is closing quickly.

Our approach to rewilding the world

Conservation Translocations

The Wilder team uses innovative science and partnerships to help secure the future for endangered species across Canada and around the world. We are leaders in developing research that is shaping the future of how species are protected, reintroduced and studied to ensure they once again thrive in the wild.

Species reintroductions are becoming increasingly important tools to stem the extinction crisis. A reintroduction is the deliberate release of an endangered species into the wild, from captivity or relocated from other wild areas, in order to prevent its extinction. Over the past 30 years, the need for and use of reintroduction programs has increased ten-fold. Reintroductions require sound science, long-term investment and continued monitoring to be successful.


For more than 30 years, the Wilder Institute has been leading wildlife conservation programs in Canada including:

Whooping cranes

In the 1940s, only 21 whooping cranes remained in the wild due to overhunting and habitat loss. Dedicated wildlife conservation efforts have improved the status of these endangered birds.

How We’re Helping

Vancouver Island marmot

Vancouver Island marmots are one of the most endangered mammals in the world and found only on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. This species began to decline in the 1990s as habitat fragmentation increased predation in the mountain meadows where they live. By 2003, there were only about 30 individuals left in the wild. When alarmed, marmots whistle piercingly loud, which earned them the nickname “Whistle Pig”.

How We’re Helping

Burrowing owl

For thousands of years, burrowing owls have been a part of grassland ecosystems in Canada, but they are disappearing from the prairies. Each fall, these tiny owls make an incredible trek as they migrate from Canada to Mexico and the southern United States. Many don’t return and their fate is unclear.

How We’re Helping

Greater sage-grouse

Once common across sagebrush country in the prairies, the greater sage-grouse population in Alberta and Saskatchewan has declined by an estimated 90% in the past 30 years. Today, there are less than 200 Greater sage-grouse in Canada.

How We’re Helping

Building on common ground

Community Conservation

The vast majority of the world’s biological diversity exists in developing nations. In these regions, rural communities live alongside endangered species and hold in their hands the power to save these fragile plant and animal populations. We support local communities with resources and expertise to take meaningful action together. These are the ingredients for success that the Wilder Institute brings.

Our experience over the past several decades clearly illustrates that directly involving communities in animal conservation programs is an approach that works. Communities must have a reason – often an economic one – to protect their wildlife. Creating sustainable employment opportunities, focusing on education, building capacity, and improving the quality of life for community members in ways that protects biodiversity is the key to success. When people prosper, nature benefits.


For more than 30 years, the Wilder Institute has been working with communities in different parts of the globe to identify win-win scenarios that simultaneously benefit wildlife and people. Identifying solutions that can make a real difference requires time, patience and trust. Community conservation programs include:

Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary

Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary, in northwestern Ghana, was created to protect hippopotamus and improve the livelihoods of local people. For two decades, the Wilder Institute has played a supporting role in offering guidance, building capacity and monitoring outcomes for biodiversity and human communities.

How We’re Helping

Lemurs

The Wilder Institute is working collaboratively to help restore critical habitat for lemurs by planting trees and providing local people with sustainable, rainforest-friendly livelihoods.

How We’re Helping

Leveraging our expertise for global action

Conservation Collaborations

The Wilder Institute is a global leader in the conservation of at-risk species. The Institute is well known for its on-the-ground translocation and community conservation programs that are restoring populations as diverse as the Vancouver Island marmot, Northern leopard frogs, mountain Bongo in Kenya, and many others. What is perhaps lesser known, is the role of the Wilder Institute in advancing the science, best practices, and impact of conservation biology world-wide. The Wilder Institute achieves this global reach via:

  • Home to the Global Secretariat of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission’s (SSC) Conservation Translocation Specialist Group.
  • Researching, publishing, and presenting science that advances the methodological practice of conservation biology for researchers and practitioners around the world.
  • Influencing policy decisions by governments that help protect vulnerable species and their habitats.
  • Advising numerous organizations and community groups, large and small, on best practices for specific conservation translocation projects around the world. These are projects where the Wilder Institute is not an active partner, but is nonetheless extending its reach by enhancing the successful survival of species-at-risk through this advisory role.

Some examples:

  • At the IUCN Conservation Translocation Specialist group training in London in 2017, government officials attended as “students”, which led to the Wilder Institute advising the UK government on how to develop and refine the English Code for Reintroductions and Other Conservation Translocations:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reintroductions-and-conservation-translocations-in-england-code-guidance-and-forms

  • Helped the US government and Guam State government along with other partners to develop planning, science, and action around Sihek (Guam kingfisher):

https://www.forbes.com/sites/grrlscientist/2021/02/25/extinct-guam-kingfisher-provides-blueprint-for-reintroducing-other-long-lost-animals/

The Wilder Institute collaborates with governments, academic institutions, industries and other conservation partners to develop and implement conservation strategies and policies to drive species-at-risk recovery.

Join the movement

Incredible successes can be achieved when people are inspired to support wildlife conservation.

Much has been accomplished already, but the need to do more increases every day. Together we can make the world a wilder place.

How You Can Help