WildlifeDirect, a nonprofit led by Richard Leakey, is using the internet to create a global, conservation-driven community. Using a similar approach to Kiva.org, a popular micro-financing website, WildlifeDirect allows individual donors to learn about conservation projects taking place around the world, to communicate directly with conservationists working in the field, and to see how their dollars are being invested. These connections, according to Leakey, create “real-time transparency and accountability.” The site features over one hundred bloggers writing from dozens of countries across Africa, Asia, and South America. In 2008, WildlifeDirect raised nearly $500,000 to finance the 70 plus projects featured on the site.
One of the projects WildlifeDirect champions is called Lion Guardians. The greatest threat to the survival of lions in Kenya’s Maasailand is the Maasai themselves, who kill the carnivores in retaliation for slain livestock or in traditional spearing by warriors. Now a group of Maasai warriors are working as Lion Guardians, tracking the cats for their protection, helping ranchers minimize conflict, and educating their fellow Maasai about the value of conservation. Since the project began in 2006, the guardians have directly stopped ten hunting parties from killing lions.