BBC plans to cancel fruitful Wildlife Conservation Fund

/ Jeremy Hance

The announcement that the BBC plans to axe its 4-year-old Wildlife Conservation Fund, which has raised nearly $5 million (£3 million) for endangered species worldwide, has spurred an online campaign to save the program. The fund, which raises money largely from BBC viewers—especially those watching its renowned wildlife documentaries—has financed 87 programs around the world to date.

The announcement that the BBC plans to axe its 4-year-old Wildlife Conservation Fund, which has raised nearly $5 million (£3 million) for endangered species worldwide, has spurred an online campaign to save the program.

The fund, which raises money largely from BBC viewers&#8212especially those watching its renowned wildlife documentaries&#8212has financed 87 programs around the world to date, including providing homes for dwindling dormice populations in the UK, restoring jaguar corridors in Brazil, finding solutions to conflict between locals and mountain gorillas, and creating a giant clam ranch that reinstates massive mussels in the wild. Around 20 percent of the program’s donations go to UK wildlife, while the rest goes internationally. This year the program is currently working with a number of little-known, but highly endangered species, such as the spoon-billed sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus), Sagalla caecilian (Boulengerula niedeni), the Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus) and the Kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus), as well as well-known species like the Amur tiger, the African elephant, and the snow leopard.

The decision to kill the fund comes as the BBC is looking to cut spending across the board. However since the Wildlife Conservation Fund is a charity dependent on donors, its cost to the BBC is minimal. Still, the network has decided it wants to focus on other, more long-established, BBC charitable causes, such as Children in Need, Comic and Sport Relief, instead of the young conservation fund.

“The BBC has a clear commitment to a number of charities and we are proud of our achievements in support of the Wildlife Fund,” a BBC spokesperson told the Guardian. “However, as with the many difficult choices we currently face, we must focus our efforts in areas where we can have the most impact. We have therefore regrettably concluded that we can no longer support fundraising programming around our wildlife output.”

But a number of conservationists are not letting the fund die without a fight. A petition has been started that so far has attracted over 8,000 names. In addition 57 organizations to date have signed a letter to BBC Chariman, Chris Patten, to save the fund.

“In establishing the Fund, we believe that the BBC recognized the respect in which the Natural History Unit is so widely held and the value of its wonderful and ground-breaking wildlife documentaries to the Corporation over several decades. The Fund provided a mechanism to further this influence and put something back into environmental conservation, as well as championing sustainable outcomes which enable economic betterment for local communities,” the letter reads in part.

Conservationists say that while the fund may not be as high profile as Comic Relief or Children in Need, it plays a vital role in supporting global conservation work and, given that it is still very young, holds great potential for future good.

The letter to save the fund adds, “At a time of obvious crisis for the world’s biodiversity, we can only ask what message it sends for such an iconic and respected organization as the BBC to appear to be drawing back from its support of the living world?”

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