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Companion Ticket: Peter Knights, Founder & CEO of WildAid

Peter Knights with his wonderful wife Corie - photo credit Vern Evans

Peter Knights with his wonderful wife Corie - photo credit Vern Evans

30 second snapshot

Name Peter Knights
Your home base San Francisco, CA
Aside from a passport, the three items you always travel with  Noise-cancelling headphones, iPod, laptop
Your perfect meal on the road, what & where Fresh crab in Virgin Clubhouse London
The best thing you’ve read in the last 6 months The Guardian US Edition
Your travel soundtrack  Game of Thrones audiobooks – I can drift off and fall asleep then hop back in
The one place you’ve been that you think everyone should visit Galapagos Islands - then tell me evolution isn’t real
The one place you’ll always return to, no matter how many times Tanzania
The one Never-Have-I-Ever destination that you hope to visit Cuba
The one thing that most surprised you on your last trip Surviving four cities in five days in South Africa with a middle of the night US board meeting in between

If there's someone who truly knows the importance of conservation both in and out of the water it is Peter Knights, founder and CEO of WildAid. Guided by the mantra, “When the buying stops, the killing can too”, Peter, along with an impressive network of high-profile ambassadors (the likes of Prince William and David Beckham, to name just two of the luminaries who support the organisation globally), works around the world to hit back on the consumer demand that drives poaching of endangered wildlife. Thus far in 2016, Peter and his team have played a pivotal role in spurring Hong Kong to ban its domestic ivory trade, while simultaneously working on the other side of the Pacific to advance government regulations in Peru to protect its giant manta rays, illegally hunted for use in Vietnamese tonics.

Here we find our more about Peter's passion for wildlife, his accomplishments, and travels around the globe. 

Tell us about the inspiration for WildAid. What did your "This is What We're Going to Do" moment look like?
Having carried out numerous investigations across Asia into rhino horn, tiger bone and bear gall-bladder smuggling, I had discovered that many consumers of these products had no idea where they were coming from. Some believed they were results of natural mortality and perception of poaching was almost non-existent. At this time National Geographic and Discovery were just getting started in Asia so although in the West everyone knew about the issues, in Asia few did. So, how to educate a lot of people in a very short time? We asked a top advertising agency to use the best Western advertising techniques to persuade people not to buy and we approached top stars to carry the message. Jackie Chan was our first Ambassador and since then we’ve recruited more than a hundred icons to carry our message: “When the buying stops, the killing can too.”

How would you describe a typical day? 
There’s no such thing! Last year I was six months on the road. Back home, the morning starts responding to overnight emails from Asia, Africa and the UK. We usually have at least three productions in progress and are often at the mercy of other’s schedules, so travel is usually last minute and complicated. I have to write scripts, grants, reports, op-eds, and organise events like press launches. I usually have to review cuts of messages or documentaries we are working on, and check in with co-workers at home and abroad. Most of my meetings are on the road, but I meet board members and donors at home. Evenings I may have to Skype with Asia. 

What is your favourite part of your work?
Seeing our pieces on television or being told I shouldn’t eat shark fin by someone who has seen one of our campaigns.

What do you find the most challenging of your day-to-day? 
Scheduling shoots with top icons whose schedules often change all the time, and fitting it round family life.

What do you find the most inspiring?
Visiting the animals we are trying to protect in the wild.

What is your proudest accomplishment of the last 12 months?
That ivory prices in China have dropped by 50% (lack of demand leading to the price collapse) and China and Hong Kong governments have announced they will ban ivory trade. We have been a major catalyst for these events.

What are you most excited about crossing off your list in the next year? The next ten years?
In the next year, we’re working to end the ivory trade and reduce rhino poaching in South Africa. In the next ten, we’re aiming for China to evolve into a major supporter of wildlife conservation and no longer the major market for wildlife products.

If you weren’t working with WildAid, what would you be doing instead?
Probably running my own business, hopefully in something creative. 

Your work is obviously global in nature. How has your experience with WildAid influenced how you travel?
Now it’s with a bad back from too many long-haul economy flights. I travel light with minimum hand luggage only.

Share with us one of your favourite snap-shots from the last 12 months
I don’t have many pictures of myself as I’m usually taking the shots, but here is a perfect sunset in Tanzania's Tarangire National Park, where all seemed right in the world for a moment.
Photo credit Kristian Schmidt

Photo credit Kristian Schmidt