Peter and Corie Knights are on a mission to end the illegal wildlife trade. We caught up with Corie to chat about her travel habits and WildAid’s important mission. By Haley Beham
Peter and Corie Knights are driven by desire to leave the world a better place than it was when they arrived. That desire manifests itself in WildAid, founded by Peter in 2000. WildAid’s message is simple—“When the buying stops, the killing can, too.” Instead of focusing on protecting animals from poaching, they’ve shifted their focus to reducing the global consumption and demand on products made from animals.
The illegal wildlife trade is one of the largest illicit trades after illegal drugs, arms, and human trafficking, worth an estimated $10-20 billion dollars annually. Animals that once thrived are disappearing at alarming rates: 33,000 elephants a year are killed for the ivory trade, and 73 million sharks killed annually for shark fin soup.
At the heart of WildAid is a massive education and awareness campaign, which leverages nearly $200 million annually in pro-bono media support from global media partners. WildAid uses big name celebrity ambassadors like Leonardo DiCaprio, Yao Ming, Kate Hudson, and Jackie Chan to help spread its message, reaching up to 1 billion people each week. It’s focus has centered on Asia, where the demand for wildlife parts and products is the highest.
But Americans are huge consumers of illegal and legal wildlife products too. It’s estimated that 80% of Americans are unaware of the illegal wildlife trade and that products they bring into the States are prohibited. To help raise awareness in America, WildAid has recently partnered with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to help drive home their message and make wildlife conservation a global priority.
How often do you travel?
This year has been particularly busy. In the last 10 months I have traveled to Antarctica, the South Pole, Cape Town, Kenya, Costa Rica, the Galapagos Islands, Mexico, the UK, and many cities in the U.S.
Sleeping on the ice in a pup tent at minus 38 degrees in the South Pole is a story for another time!
Favorite destination and why?
Africa. I am at peace and humbled when I am in the company of wild elephants. It also makes me incredibly sad as elephants are having such a tough time.
Favorite family holiday you’ve taken? Why?
Anyplace tropical of course! I would have to say our favorite travel destination is Devon in the UK as we go every summer to visit family. Peter Knights (CEO of WildAid) and I have two children, Julia and Charlotte and they love it! Riding the quad bike with Grampy, lots of beach time and surfing, taking care of the chickens and dogs, playing in the river. It’s heaven for our girls!
What is the greatest success of WildAid so far?
Our shark fin campaign which has helped to bring down shark fin consumption by 82% since 2011. Rhino horn prices are down by 50% in Vietnam and China and Ivory prices are down by almost 70% in Hong Kong and China since our campaigns have launched. We have a long way to go but WildAid is making a difference.
On some days, it seems like the fight to end poaching is effective. Other days it seems insurmountable. Where do you find the inspiration to keep moving forward with the message of WildAid day after day?
I can’t imagine a world without majestic creatures roaming the earth. For me being in the wild is my church. Many of the greatest moments of my life have been spent in the company of elephants, rhinos, whale sharks, giant manta rays, and beautiful cats like leopards, cheetahs, tigers, and lions. What will be left of us if we poach all of these animals to extinction, poison our oceans, and pollute our air? I do not want to raise our children in a world of concrete and high rises.
I am continuously inspired to keep moving forward for the next generation. Our children must be allowed to experience such natural wonders as we have. I am also incredibly inspired by my husband, the CEO and Founder of WildAid, Peter Knights. We have been married for 17 years. Peter is tireless, traversing the earth for seven months of the year to spread our message.
What’s next for WildAid?
We just launched our campaign with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to raise awareness about the illegal wildlife trade here. Most people don’t know much about it. For example, when they buy trinkets and souvenirs abroad that are made of ivory or other illegal wildlife products. Just last month (September) in New York, $4.5 million in illegal ivory was confiscated from Metropolitan Fine Art and Antiques. It was the largest seizure in NY history.
We are raising awareness about the crisis that lions are facing as well as our ongoing campaigns on sharks, elephants, rhinos, manta rays and pangolins. We have a climate change campaign in China as well, and James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger just did a PSA with us that will come out soon.
What’s the best way for people to get involved?
Please go on our website www.wildaid.org and sign up for our online newsletters. Introducing us to people that may be able to help us is very effective.
Join Peter and I on a WildAid trip to Africa in June of 2017. We can also take you to the Galapagos (we have a WildAid boat there with Angermeyer Cruises) or Mexico to swim with whale sharks.
Please join us at our Gala in San Francisco on November 12th at the Ritz Carlton for our “Evening Under the Sea”. We have a great band, Nico and Vinz, and we are honoring our Ambassador, Ian Somerhalder. It promises to be an exciting evening! Tickets are almost sold out. www.wildaid.org/gala2016