2020 Strategy

"Never before have we faced such a need
To bring knowledge to action
To connect hearts with minds
To assure our survival."

excerpt from WCS Manifesto

Our Connection to Nature

As human beings, we connect to nature with a force as strong as the pull of gravity. We depend on nature. Zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, national parks, the conservation movement—indeed, the Wildlife Conservation Society—were all created with a desire to maintain and strengthen that connection.

Our human footprint keeps growing. In the time since the Renaissance, the global human population has grown from a half billion to over seven billion. By 2050 that number could reach 10 billion, filling nearly all the lands and scouring nearly all the seas. Our movements and actions are—and will continue to be—the prevailing reality for every other living thing on the planet. More than half of the people on the planet live in cities, where zoos and aquariums provide a window into nature. Our demands for food and water have a global reach; our choices have an impact on the planet.

Amidst these exploding pressures on our Earth and its limited resources, we have developed a strategy that we call WCS: 2020. We are launching a new website, brand identity, and logo to support it. The "W" stands for wildlife.

Saving wildlife is our history and our future. We commit ourselves with this strategy to stay focused on this mission to save wildlife, while also realizing our work cannot be implemented in a vacuum and without partners.

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These goals are an action plan 'for people, planet and prosperity.' WCS recognizes that the health and welfare of people and communities across the globe are inextricably connected to our mission of protecting wildlife and wild places and we will work with nations to achieve these goals.

In the field, we work to conserve the remaining wild areas where the human footprint is lightest. At home, we aim to grow a constituency for conservation through our four zoos and aquarium and through our dedicated national campaigns like 96 Elephants. These efforts will be essential if some of our most beloved species and their habitats are to survive for future generations.

A Strategy Based on Strengths

Our 2020 strategic plan builds on a proud history that begins with the founding of the New York Zoological Society (NYZS) in 1895. The NYZS founders envisioned an organization that would save wildlife in North America and connect people to nature through the Bronx Zoo.

Over the course of our transformation into WCS, we have expanded our field conservation operations to close to 60 nations and all the world's oceans. Using science and our wildlife expertise, we have supported governments and communities in the creation or expansion of 245 protected areas—from the remote mountains of Afghanistan to the windswept wilderness of Chile's Tierra del Fuego. We have worked with local communities to manage wildlife and wild places to enhance their lives.

We have provided 400 million guests with immersive, memorable experiences connecting them with animals at our zoos and aquarium in New York City. For many, these visits represent the only opportunity they will ever have to see wildlife firsthand. Our parks in New York City have inspired millions to care about nature and have helped support conservation field programs around the world. Developments in information technology have enabled us to share our mission and work with millions of people across the United States and the planet.


The world is changing rapidly. So must we if we are to respond to the challenges and opportunities before us.

The forward thinking strategy we set forth here positions WCS to maintain its historic focus on the protection of species while developing an ambitious plan to engage with a rapidly changing world.

The challenges are greater than ever, but with the focus, dedication and passion of a committed staff—with a unique mixture of field, zoo and aquarium expertise—WCS will continue to set the bar for science, conservation action, animal husbandry, exhibit design, and education that has driven our success in protecting wildlife and wild places for over a century.

Our Goal

WCS: 2020 represents our most careful thinking on our identity and purpose as a conservation organization, what we want to achieve, and which strengths and assets will help us have the most impact. We begin with this goal:

To conserve the world's largest wild places in 14 priority regions, home to more than 50 percent of the world's biodiversity.


WCS: 2020, and its mission and vision statements, along with a set of core values, were developed to guide our team and to ensure that we hold ourselves to the highest standards.

Our Mission

WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.

Our Vision

WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth.

Our Values


We treat coworkers, partners, and local communities in the places where we work with respect and dignity and show regard for the views and opinions of others.

Accountability & Transparency

We focus on results and measurable outcomes, take responsibility for our decisions and actions, and are honest about our successes and failures.


We evaluate established ideas and practices, learn from experience, and introduce new methods and concepts.

Diversity & Inclusion

We value staff and community partners from all backgrounds and cultures with different skills, abilities, and perspectives; we ensure that everyone has an opportunity to fully contribute to our mission.


We embrace teamwork and encourage people, organizations, and countries to work together to develop solutions to the world's conservation challenges.


We act in a manner consistent with our core values and charitable mission and uphold the highest standards of honesty and ethical behavior.

"Never before have we faced such a need
To bring knowledge to action
To connect hearts with minds
To assure our survival."

In order to achieve our mission and have a bigger impact, we have identified three core strategies for our work:


Through science: WCS will produce and disseminate the information and knowledge necessary to inform and improve conservation and management action in the wild places that we seek to conserve, and to measure the impact of our work.


Through conservation action: WCS will help to conserve ecologically intact wild places in 16 priority terrestrial and marine regions and their wildlife, and reverse the decline of six priority groups of species across their range– elephants, apes, big cats, sharks & rays, whales & dolphins, and tortoises & freshwater turtles. We will also help maintain viable populations of critically endangered species in our zoos and aquarium.


Through engagement and education: WCS will activate a conservation movement of a diverse, influential and enduring global audience that is invested and empowered to protect wild nature, using the powerful experiences at our zoos and aquarium; enduring impact of our education programs; and the great reach of digital tools.

To succeed in realizing our goal and target outcomes, we must:

  • Build a stronger platform for our work by strengthening WCS as an organization and building the capacity of organizations in the places where we work; and
  • Leverage our resources through strategic partnerships with organizations that share our vision and values, and by using our knowledge to inform public policy.

"Never before have we known so well
The intricate balance of species and systems
All life depends on."


As we move toward 2020 and beyond, we seek to conserve the world's largest and most ecologically intact wild places. These places are home to more than 50 percent of the world's biodiversity and sustain over 300 million of the world's poorest people.

We have selected 14 priority regions that will focus our field effort on landscapes and seascapes that:

  • Comprise the most intact natural area
  • Represent Earth's biodiversity
  • Are resilient to climate change or provide opportunities for species to adapt to it
  • Enable us to have the greatest impact

WCS landscapes include more than 10 percent of the world's intact forest and harbor over 40 percent of all known mammal, bird, and amphibian species. In a sample of marine taxa, WCS seascapes were found to harbor more than 12,000 known species, close to 90 percent of all coral diversity, and over half the world's species of sharks, rays, and marine mammals.

We will also focus on the conservation of six global priority animal species groups based on the following criteria:

  • Are deeply valued for themselves
  • Are critical to the ecological functioning of our landscapes and seascapes
  • Are threatened
  • Are powerful flagships for the conservation of our priority regions and for addressing critical conservation issues globally

Our work will reverse the decline of six priority groups of species—elephants, apes, big cats, sharks & rays, whales & dolphins, and tortoises & fresh-water turtles—that are flagships for those wild places and for critical issues facing wildlife globally.

The 14 regions where we will focus our efforts:

  1. Arctic Beringia (Arctic coasts and seas of Alaska, Western Canada, and Eastern Russia)
  2. Rocky Mountain West (from southern Canada to the U.S.–Mexico borderlands)
  3. North American Boreal Forests (boreal forests, mountains, and peatlands in Canada and Alaska)
  4. Mesoamerica & Western Caribbean (Forests, coasts, and coral reefs in Belize, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua)
  5. Andes, Amazon, & Orinoco (Forests, grasslands, and wetlands of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela)
  6. Patagonia (Forests, steppe, coasts and seas of Argentina and Chile)
  7. Central Africa & Gulf of Guinea (Forests and coast, including Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda)
  8. Eastern Africa, Madagascar, & Western Indian Ocean (Savannahs, forests, and woodlands of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Mozambique; and coasts and coral reefs of Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Madagascar)
  9. Temperate Asian Mountains & Grasslands (Grasslands, forests, and mountains of central and northeast Asia)
  10. South Asia & Bay of Bengal (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal)
  11. Greater Mekong (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam)
  12. Southeast Asian Archipelago (Forests, coasts, and reefs of Indonesia and Malaysia)
  13. Melanesia ("Ridge to reef" in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu)
  14. Sudano-Sahel (Savannas, forests, and wetlands of Central Africa)

"Yet never before have we had such tools
To inform, to empower, excite and engage.
Never before have we had such a chance
And never again will we get such a choice."

Join Us As We



By 2020, WCS will be the premier science-based conservation organization, producing and disseminating the information and knowledge necessary to inform and improve conservation and management action in the wild places, and measuring the impact of our work on wildlife and wild places.

Since our founding, WCS has conducted scientific research and used this knowledge to inform conservation and measure impacts. The pioneering work of WCS conservationists William Hornaday, William Beebe, Gloria Hollister, Marcio Ayres, and George Schaller began a tradition that continues today with colleagues in New York and around the globe. We employ more than 170 PhD and DVM scientists and have trained and funded generations of field and zoo colleagues, many of whom are now leaders in conservation science, wildlife veterinary medicine, and curatorial research around the world.

This strong heritage of science-driven conservation will be ever more important over the coming decades if we are to address increasingly complex global issues. These challenges include the pressure from human development activities on our planet's most intact wild places; climate change and its impacts on natural resource availability, ocean habitat, and species relationships; and diseases like Ebola that infect both wildlife and people. Our extensive portfolio of research will continue to inform site-based action and influence national and international policy on topics from ecological resilience, to animal health, to climate change adaptation.

Between now and 2020, WCS will:

  • Maintain and expand scientific capacity within WCS, including the training of the next
    generation of field and zoo conservation scientists.
  • Expand our systems and methods of data collection, analysis and management.
  • Disseminate the results of our research among the scientific community and beyond, and
    use it to inform conservation actions and public policy.
  • In the landscapes and seascapes where we work, monitor the effectiveness of our
    conservation actions on five key measures: (1) wildlife populations; (2) habitat integrity;
    (3) management capacity and law enforcement (4) quality of human life; and (5) natural
    resource governance.
  • Develop targeted collaborations with key scientists, universities, and conservation
    organizations to foster learning and sharing of scientific resources and information.
  • Utilize our zoos and aquarium in continued scientific studies that will both advance
    animal care in our parks and enhance conservation in nature.

"Never before has one species known
The weight of its choices
And the terrible cost of inaction."

Join Us As We



By 2020, we will help conserve wild nature in 14 of the world's most important terrestrial and marine regions while reversing the decline of six global priority species groups that are flagships for wild places and for critical issues facing wildlife globally.

To conserve these wild places and wildlife species and to leverage our impact beyond these landscapes, seascapes, and species populations, we will partner with governments, local communities, and other organizations working in these 14 regions and on these six species groups pioneering approaches to conservation and catalyzing and coordinating concerted action.

Between now and 2020, WCS will:

Support the establishment and management of protected areas, helping nations fulfill their commitment to the Aichi Targets under the Convention on Biological Diversity that protected area coverage be expanded to 17 percent of land and 10 percent of the ocean.

Work with governments and communities to effectively manage and conserve the landscapes and seascapes in which we work. We will seek to ensure that within each of these WCS landscapes and seascapes:

  • Populations of indicator species (including members of global priority species groups) are stable or increasing.
  • The extent of intact habitat is stable or increasing.
  • Help monitor at least 80 percent of the protected areas where we work annually.
  • State or local agencies and community organizations show improved capacity to manage natural resource use sustainably within their jurisdictions.
  • Livelihoods of communities are stable or improving.

Seek to ensure that elephants, apes, big cats, sharks & rays, whales & dolphins, and tortoises and freshwater turtles achieve measurable progress toward recovery and long-term viability of populations in WCS landscapes and seascapes and across their range and highlight this effort in our New York City parks.

Focus our zoo and aquarium collections on species that are at risk in nature, that have ties with Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) conservation programs.

"We choose to protect.
We choose to conserve.
We choose to educate, advocate, innovate
For the future of wildlife,
For the future of all."

Join Us As We



By 2020, we will build and activate a conservation movement—a diverse, influential, and enduring global community that is invested and empowered to save wildlife and wild places.

We will build a substantial network of supporters and advocates by broadening our audiences and deepening our impact. To do this, we will grow the number of visitors to our zoos and aquarium in New York; increase our education impact and reach within our NYC parks and in our global priority regions. We will increase the audiences for all our digital platforms and our earned media; and expand our reach by partnering with government, business and civil society, including: NGOs, zoos and aquariums, informal science education and cultural institutions.

Between now and 2020, WCS will:

  • Grow attendance to WCS's zoos and aquarium and global parks.
  • Complete a renovation and expansion to transform the New York Aquarium into a memorable and impactful experience that meaningfully connects visitors to the oceans.
  • Measure and improve the impact of the visitor experience to our parks and aquarium.
  • Continue to develop targeted education programs to engage communities in New York City and the priority landscapes and seascapes where we work.
  • Establish partnerships with governments, businesses, civil society, and other zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and museums in the U.S. and abroad to ignite a movement of 5 million.
  • Develop strategic partnerships with media that enable our conservation efforts to reach a global audience.

"But we cannot do this alone.
We need you all
To take a stand."


We will also seek to build a stronger institutional platform to support our conservation programs and help build the capacity of our partner institutions in the places where we work.

By 2020, WCS will ensure that it has:

  • A diverse, passionately committed team that continuously learns and improves, leverages each other's contributions, embraces WCS's values, and are empowered to work collectively to achieve WCS's mission.
  • A taxonomically diverse and exciting animal collection in our zoos and aquarium, focused on population sustainability and closely aligned with AZA conservation programs and Global Conservation Program initiatives.
  • Dynamic, immersive, multi-species exhibits in our zoos and aquarium.
  • Recognition as a leading and respected voice on conservation through effective internal and external communications and branding.
  • Strong management systems to support the achievement of organizational goals.
  • A reduction in the environmental impact of our operations.
  • Sector-wide leadership in applying technology to enhance our strategies.
  • A business model that will allow us to increase our annual earned and raised revenues.


Recognizing that our mission and goals are ambitious, we will work to leverage our resources to have a greater impact through partnerships and greater involvement in public policy.

We will identify strategic partners related to the priority places and issues described in this plan and work to develop long-term strategic partnerships with relevant organizations, governments, and institutions to help us improve our impact significantly.

Between now and 2020, WCS will:

  • Establish Science for Nature and People (SNAP), in collaboration with TNC and NCEAS to develop analysis, synthesis, and models that will be used to inform policies and scale up practices for conservation.
  • Establish a Partners in Field Conservation (PFC) program through collaboration and partnerships with other zoos, aquariums, and botanical gardens.
  • Build our SMART partnership to strengthen the management of protected areas.
  • Expand the Health & Ecosystems: Analysis of Linkages (HEAL) program, with its focus on the critical importance of landscape and seascape conservation to public health, with Harvard University and other key partners.
  • Develop a new initiative to examine the relationship between cities and wildlife, building on our work in New York City and expanding into other cities.
  • Develop a network with other NGO's, businesses, governments and civil society to combat illegal wildlife trafficking, with an initial emphasis on elephants and ivory
  • Develop a partnership with the National Geographic Society to expand our reach through multiple platforms and engage people in our mission and goals

We will strengthen our involvement in public policy at the local, national, and international levels to have a greater impact on the conservation of wildlife and wild places of concern to us.

We will prioritize those areas where our science and conservation can inform policies and those where we are able to link our work on the ground with national priorities and international agreements, including trade agreements. We will also focus on policies and regulations that may negatively impact our mission and work.

Between now and 2020 we will use our knowledge to inform public policy in these areas:

  • The international wildlife trade in high value wildlife products, with the aim of stopping wildlife trafficking.
  • Terrestrial and marine protected areas, where we will help establish and manage parks and other protected areas, working closely with government and community partners.
  • Land and seascape management, in which we will seek to maintain corridors and natural connectivity, address forest conversion and fragmentation, and work with extractive industries to avoid, mitigate, and offset the biodiversity impacts of their operations.
  • Approaches to land-use planning that protect the health of wildlife, people, and domestic animals – all as underpinned by environmental stewardship.
  • The challenges created by climate change, mitigation of the changes, and assistance to people and wild species adapting to such changes.

Adversaries become allies.
Competitors become partners.
Governments become supporters.
Companies become protectors.
Zoos and aquariums become gateways.
Citizens become advocates.
Today becomes a more beautiful tomorrow.


We stand for wildlife.SM
Stand with us.

The challenges are greater than ever. But with the dedication and passion of a committed global team, combined with a unique constellation of field, zoo and aquarium expertise, strengthened with partnerships and policy expertise, WCS will continue to raise the bar for science, conservation action, and education that has driven our success in protecting wildlife and wild places for 12 decades.

We can't do this alone. We encourage you to partner with us.

Click here to learn more about WCS leadership.

To learn more about WCS and inspire others to get involved, watch the video of the WCS Manifesto that appears at the top of each section of this document:

For more information about supporting our work, email strategy@wcs.org.

We Stand For WildlifeSM
WCS Manifesto

Never before have we known so well
The intricate balance of species and systems
All life depends on

Never before have we faced such a need
To bring knowledge to action
To connect hearts with minds
To assure our survival
For us all to wake up

Never before has one species known
The weight of its choices
And terrible cost of inaction

Yet never before have we had such tools
To inform, to empower, excite and engage
Never before have we had such a chance
And never again will we get such a choice

We choose to Protect
We choose to Preserve
We choose to Educate
We choose to Advocate
We choose to Innovate
For the future of wildlife
For the future of all

But we cannot do this alone
We need you all in
We need you to take a stand

Adversaries become allies
Competitors become partners
Governments become supporters
Companies become protectors
Zoos and aquariums become gateways
Citizens become advocates
Today becomes a more beautiful tomorrow

We stand for WildlifeSM

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