Fortune Favours the Wild

by Inga Yandell

We can do more together and our power is greatly enhanced by investing in wildlife. Driving innovation, research, and resources requires money in equal measure with support from philanthropists and the public. This creates a wellspring for investing in the future of wildlife. Forming an alliance to serve this goal on a global scale is a smart strategy for wildlife conservation and Panthera are leading the way.

In a move indicative of China’s growing influence as a leader in environmental protection, visionary philanthropist and entrepreneur Madame He Qiaonyu, through her Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation, has joined forces with Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, and WildCRU, Oxford University’s conservation research unit, to protect big cats and their vast landscapes within China and beyond. It is the first international partnership for the Foundation, which envisions establishing the largest collaboration for biodiversity conservation in the world.

Starting with the apex carnivores, Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation will invest $20 million over the next 10 years to fund conservation programs devoted to the protection of big cats both inside China and around the world, focusing on 10 “at-risk” areas to be determined by Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation with Panthera and WildCRU.

The partnership will be announced tomorrow in Monaco in conjunction with a meeting of IUCN’s Patrons of Nature, of which Madame He is a member.

Madame He is Founder and Chairman of Beijing Oriental Landscape and Ecology Co. Ltd., the largest landscape architecture company in China. Since establishing Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation in 2012, Madame He has become a force in Chinese philanthropy, investing in such areas as female entrepreneurship, ecological education, and climate change, and is setting the standard in China for emerging philanthropists.

In 2017, Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation introduced an ambitious vision for nature conservation, unveiling an accelerated seven-year plan to protect 28 critical habitat areas within China and conserve dozens of flagship animal and plant species. The Foundation plans to leverage its investments through high-profile partnerships within China and beyond, adopting and applying best practices to achieve its objectives and developing models for conservation worldwide.

Madame He stated, “I feel fortunate to have met Thomas and to be working with Panthera. This partnership enables us at Qiaonyu Foundation to utilize the most professional and experienced team in cat conservation as we begin to protect and preserve these beautiful but fragile species. It is an extraordinary undertaking, and to achieve the ambitious outcomes we seek, we are going to mobilize all the passion and intelligence we utilized when starting our businesses.”

She continued, “I would also add that there are a large number of entrepreneurs in China who are actively paying attention to environmental issues. They would love to share their wealth, knowledge, and vision to search for more and effective solutions for conserving nature. Qiaonyu Foundation is calling on potential partners in China and indeed across the globe to unite together to protect our only homeland and promise a better future for this planet!”

As the newest member of Panthera’s Global Alliance for Wild Cats, Madame He joins Thomas S. Kaplan and Daphne Recanati Kaplan, His Highness Mohamed Bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and Hemendra Kothari—among the world’s leading environmental philanthropists—in an international collaboration to preserve large-scale wildlife habitat and biodiversity around the globe by protecting the big cats.

Panthera Founder and Chairman of the Board Thomas Kaplan stated, “Madame He’s vision for species conservation is big and bold, befitting China’s enormous potential to change the trajectory for threatened big cats at home and around the world. Madame He is herself a force of nature, and I have no doubt that she will galvanize a new homegrown movement to join her in sustaining our planet’s most precious and vulnerable wildlife.”

Dr. Kaplan continued, “We are humbled to be among the first partners aligned with Madame He and the Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation in this game-changing moment and look forward to working together under the auspices of the Global Alliance to realize our shared conservation goals.”

Phase One Will Focus on China’s Snow Leopards and African Lions

With a grant from the Recanati-Kaplan Foundation, in conjunction with Panthera and WildCRU, the Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation will invest US$1 million to build out their comprehensive snow leopard conservation program in China, now in the early stages of development. The program will focus on two pilot sites to be determined, with the goal of expanding over time into the larger geographical range critical for the species’ survival.

Addressing one of the most pressing cat conservation crises globally, Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation will also contribute US$1 million to lion conservation in Africa with a focus on the geographies and populations most at risk. Due primarily to bushmeat poaching and conflict with humans, lion populations have plunged by more than 40% in the past two decades. Today, just 20,000 lions remain, occupying only 8% of their historical range. However, research shows that lions can thrive in large, well-protected landscapes with secure buffer zones, providing hope for the future.

And, in a third component of the partnership, Panthera, WildCRU and Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation will design and implement a joint wildlife management training program for Chinese conservationists working in the newly formed conservation areas in China. The training courses will be tailored for application both in the classroom and in the field.

Dr. Frédéric Launay, who will assume the CEO role at Panthera on November 1, stated, “Panthera is immensely pleased and proud to have the opportunity to work with Madame He and the Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation as partners in large-scale conservation. We see enormous opportunity to share knowledge, as well as to break new ground in creating a world in which humans and wild cats can thrive together.”

The Global Alliance for Wild Cats

The Global Alliance for Wild Cats was formed in 2014 to convene the world’s most visionary conservation thinkers across borders and cultures in a shared commitment to protecting big cats and their ecosystems. The Global Alliance invests in deploying at scale the most effective solutions for mitigating their primary threats: poaching for the illegal wildlife trade, human-cat conflict, loss of prey species, and the loss and fragmentation of habitat.

Her Excellency Razan Khalifa al Mubarak, Managing Director of the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and Secretary-General of the Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi, said, “On behalf of His Highness Mohamed bin Zayed, we welcome Madame He to the Global Alliance. How fortunate we are to have such a bright light as Madame He focused on the big cats. Only with such grand vision can we hope to achieve conservation on the scale needed to save them.”

“We are looking forward to working alongside Madame He and the Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation,” said Hemendra Kothari, Founder and Chairman of India’s Wildlife Conservation Trust. “This is truly an extraordinary example of international cooperation. Together, we can hope to recover tigers, snow leopards, lions, and all of the iconic cats upon which the delicate balance of nature depends, particularly forest and water protection and climate change mitigation.”

A New Wave of Chinese Philanthropy

Madame He is pioneering a burgeoning philanthropic movement in China, providing inspiration to a new generation of philanthropists across a broad spectrum of interests, including many focused outside of China for the first time.

She is a founder with Bill Gates, Ray Dalio, Niu Gensheng, and Ye Qingjun of the Chinese Global Philanthropy Institute, an organization dedicated to cultivating the development of philanthropy in China and around the world.


About Panthera 
Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to preserving wild cats and their critical role in the world’s ecosystems. Panthera’s team of leading biologists, law enforcement experts and wild cat advocates develop innovative strategies based on the best available science to protect cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, pumas, snow leopards and tigers and their vast landscapes. In 36 countries around the world, Panthera works with a wide variety of stakeholders to reduce or eliminate the most pressing threats to wild cats—securing their future, and ours. Visit panthera.org.
 
About Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation 
The mission of BQF is to protect the earth and nature, and conserve biodiversity. We aspire to become one of the most influential Nature Conservation Agencies in the world. 
 
About WildCRU 
David Macdonald founded the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) in 1986 at the University of Oxford. Now the foremost University-based centre for biodiversity conservation, the mission of the WildCRU is to achieve practical solutions to conservation problems through original research. WildCRU is particularly renowned for its work with wild carnivores, especially wild cats, including its long-running studies on lion and clouded leopard. Its training centre for early-career conservationists, so far from 32 countries, produces experts and future leaders in global conservation. Visit wildcru.org
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Inga Yandell
Explorer and photo-journalist, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide educational resources and a platform for science exploration.
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