How This Funder Seeks to Spur Innovation in Wildlife Protection

The killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe last summer garnered worldwide attention and outrage. Donations amounting to nearly $1 million poured in for Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Unit, the group that had been studying Cecil, leading us to wonder if the giving would continue after the news cycle moved on. We haven’t seen too many major philanthropy stories in this area since then, but there’s still plenty of work happening.

There are some familiar names in the animal welfare arena. The ASPCA runs one of the biggest grant programs in the United States, with work in all 50 states. The Bernice Barbour Foundation gives grants to wildlife conservation organizations, and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is another major player in that field. We’ve profiled several other animal welfare funders, and now we’re focusing on an organization that has been working in this area for the past 65 years.

The Animal Welfare Institute was founded in 1951 by Christine Stevens, whom AWI calls the “Mother of the Animal Protection Movement” in America, to end the cruel treatment of lab animals. The organization’s scope has expanded to include wildlife and farm animals, with a broad agenda that includes abolishing inhumane factory farms, improving conditions for animals used for research, preserving species threatened with extinction, and more.

Every year, AWI awards around five grants of up to $10,000 to spur inventive approaches to wildlife conflict management and humane techniques to study wildlife. Past recipients of the Christine Stevens Wildlife Award include research into non-invasive methods to monitor polar bears, the creation and testing of wildlife-friendly fences, and the use of drones to survey raptor nests. Applications for the 2016 awards are due on May 1, and funded studies must take place in the United States, Canada, or Mexico.

WWF (formerly World Wildlife Fund and now World Wide Fund for Nature) believes that conflict between people and animals over living space and food is a primary threat to the survival of many species, as well as to human populations. And global climate change only exacerbates that conflict. AWI’s funding for new methodologies and innovative uses of existing technologies is exciting to watch, and we’re happy to see a consistent wildlife welfare focus even in the absence of viral news stories highlighting the worst-case scenarios of human and animal interaction.