Trust is earned

When you donate to a charity, you’re relying on them to make your money work hard, and to use it to really make a difference for whatever the cause happens to be. In the case of the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) that cause is quite plain. They provide funds to carefully vetted research and conservation projects in the UK and all over the world. The grants they award get research done, results published and strategies implemented. They save species. Not only the large, glamorous ones (though big cats and great apes get their share) but also the small, humble and obscure – the noble chafer beetle, the hedgehog, the toad-headed agama, the Danube clouded yellow butterfly, the Indian Ocean humpbacked dolphin (only discovered in 2013).

I’ve been working with the PTES for (gulp) 13 years now – initially contributing a seasonal column for Mammals UK magazine – for supporters of their special fund for UK mammal conservation research Mammals Trust UK, then as editor for eight years of the same, and for the last three years as editor of the twice yearly Wildlife World magazine. This goes out to some 20,000 supporters, and attempts to cover all the diverse projects and initiatives funded by the Trust in the last six months.

The latest edition sports a new look, in line with the rebranding of the whole charity. PTES themselves haven’t made too much fuss or fanfare about this, partly I suspect because such exercises are often subject to criticism about spending resources on PR and corporate image, when actually their raison d’etre is something else entirely. So I understand their caution. But since a branding exercise is also about getting noticed, I’m more than happy to blow some trumpets on their behalf.

The new look (concocted by strategic design company Colourful and graphic designer Phill Southgate) is strikingly different to that of other conservation charities – and rightly sets PTES apart. The ethos of PTES and its small but dedicated staff is different too. PTES is a minnow by international charity standards – but quick on its feet, and with a soundly scientific approach to conservation issues that allows it to punch well above its weight in terms of results. In addition to great field science, they also fund community engagement projects (Hedgehog Street, with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society; the Ruaha Carvivore Project in Tanzania and the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Project with the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit to name just three of dozens), but always with an emphasis on monitoring, so that the efficacy of any given approach can be measured. Conservation means many things to different people, but for me, any approach that neglects science – and especially the opportunity to report honestly on what works, and what doesn’t – is little better than just crossing fingers.

The latest edition of Wildlife World is now available to supporters of PTES, and back issues are available to anyone at http://ptes.org/get-informed/publications/magazines/ 

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