Raising funds, saving species: the charity that Sir David Attenborough says ‘invented conservation’ | Good things happen every day

October 27, 2021
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When Prince William took over the patronage of Fauna & Flora International last year from his grandmother, the Queen, he threw a fresh spotlight on the world’s oldest international wildlife conservation organisation.

Fauna & Flora International, of which the Queen had previously been patron for almost 70 years, has been working to protect biodiversity since 1903. Sir David Attenborough, its vice-president, describes it as “the doyen of all conservation societies”, adding: “I would even go as far as to say Fauna & Flora International invented modern-day conservation.”

Today, amid the climate catastrophe, the organisation’s work to protect threatened species and ecosystems has never been more important. “Across the world, we need to transform our relationship with nature to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, avert catastrophic climate change and safeguard our own future on this planet,” says Alison Mollon, director of operations, Africa, at the charity.

Last year, Fauna & Flora International influenced the conservation of 50 million hectares of crucial habitat – an area almost the size of Spain. It protected habitats in 307 sites in 48 countries and worked with 97 priority species, benefiting hundreds more in the process.

Funding is crucial to the charity’s global efforts, and since 2017, it has received more than £4.2m, thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery through its Postcode Green Trust. Players subscribe for £10 a month, with winning postcodes being announced every day. A minimum of 33% of the ticket price goes to charities, which means players know they are supporting good causes as well as potentially landing a windfall.

Players of People’s Postcode Lottery have helped raise more than £750m to date for thousands of good causes across Britain and internationally. Their help was vital during the pandemic, when People’s Postcode Lottery supported Fauna & Flora International to ensure that decades of conservation achievements were not undermined. The charity launched its Partner Crisis Support fund, funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, to provide direct aid to conservation partners in Africa, Asia and Central America.

Attenborough was presented with a £500,000 cheque from People’s Postcode Lottery for Fauna & Flora International, which he has been involved with since 1959. The legendary broadcaster said: “The money raised by those who play this remarkable lottery will go to a very, very worthwhile cause.”

Support from People’s Postcode Lottery has helped Fauna & Flora International support mountain gorilla conservation. Photograph: Juan Pablo Moreiras/FFI

Fauna & Flora International’s fund covered the costs of 52 community rangers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), who play a vital role in mountain gorilla conservation. The majestic gorillas of Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC are among the world’s most iconic wildlife, and had been left critically endangered by disease, hunting and habitat destruction. Fauna & Flora International first began working to save the species in 1979 at the request of Attenborough, following his documentary Life on Earth.

Now, ecotourism and a scheme that splits the revenue with local communities means that the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, a coalition comprising Fauna & Flora International, WWF and Conservation International, has seen the population of mountain gorillas surpass 1,000, changing their conservation status from “critically endangered” to “endangered”.

Fauna & Flora International has also spent the past two decades working collaboratively, with great success, to ensure the survival of the Sumatran tiger. Almost 100,000 hectares of biologically rich forest – an area almost the size of Los Angeles – has been safeguarded within the protected Kerinci Seblat national park, and brought under community management.

As well as protecting wildlife, Fauna & Flora International is able to help with safeguarding habitats. Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images

The organisation is equally passionate about protecting other, less familiar species, such as the Siamese crocodile. Last year, 10 baby Siamese crocodiles were spotted in the wild at a site in Cambodia, where Fauna & Flora International has been working since 2000 – the largest number of wild hatchlings recorded by conservationists. Its work includes community-led protection of five sites – designated as crocodile sanctuaries – as well as boosting populations through a breeding programme, which, in 2020, produced 47 new hatchlings that will be released in a few years’ time.

Protecting habitats is equally important as protecting wildlife. “Protecting wild places is a double win. To give an example from our Africa programme, Fauna & Flora International has had great success in preserving cross-border forest corridors in Guinea and Liberia; safe havens for critically endangered forest elephants,” says Mollon.

“We need to recognise that the protection of species and the preservation of natural carbon sinks can be twin pillars of one collective international effort to avert climate catastrophe and mass extinction.”

And with support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, this crucial work to protect our planet can continue.

Since 2005, People’s Postcode Lottery has raised more than £750m for charities and good causes. To find out more, visit postcodelottery.co.uk

People’s Postcode Lottery manages lotteries on behalf of charities who receive a minimum of 33% from each ticket sale.

Fauna & Flora International is a registered charity (1011102). Funding awarded by Postcode Green Trust, a registered Scottish charity (SC042544).

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