Changing the conservation-funding model: the Rhino Impact Bond


Articles featured in international press have explored the way the Rhino Impact Investment model is changing the way conservation funding works.

After three years of development and testing, next year’s sale of a $50 million rhino impact bond is now approaching. The project is gaining attention due to the innovative way it’s designed; aiming to unlock investment capital to drive black rhino population gains in five African landscapes.

The Rhino Impact Investment (RII) Project is spearheaded by United for Wildlife and focuses on outcomes-based financing across multiple sites – essentially meaning that investors are paid back their money with interest if rhino populations have grown to their targets in these areas.

By shifting the funding model in this way, the project can be scaled if it’s successful. This way, additional funds can be directed effectively to improve the management of rhino populations in their most needed areas.

Marisa Drew, chief executive of the impact advisory and finance department at Credit Suisse, told the Financial Times: “It is this type of innovative financing structure that is needed to tackle some of our most challenging conservation requirements.”

“As a partner and crucial supporter of the Rhino Impact Bond from the early development of the idea – through the testing of the concept and support to selected sites and ensuring they are ready to accept investment through this kind of financial model – The Royal Foundation is incredibly delighted the project has reached this stage. Through a rigorous development and testing period, the project, bringing together the conservation and finance expertise required, has the potential to not only make a critical contribution to rhino conservation but to completely change the way conservation funding works.” – Naomi Doak (PhD), Head of Conservation Programmes at The Royal Foundation

Rhinos are under immense pressure from the illegal wildlife trade. Demand for rhino horn has reached unprecedented levels and the resulting illegal trade is pushing African rhinos towards the tipping point, where deaths start exceeding births and continental population numbers decline at an accelerating rate.

The Royal Foundation has been involved in the RII Project since the idea was first developed to test the use of a social impact investment approach to funding species focussed conservation efforts. The Foundation has been a key supporter of the project providing direct support to selected sites to ensure they are ready for investment when the product goes to market.

Implementation of the Rhino Impact Investment Project has been led by UfW partner, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). The Project received crucial funding from the Global Environment Facility, the UK Government through the IWT Challenge Fund, The Royal Foundation and ZSL. The United Nations Development Programme is the GEF Agency implementing and executing Project activities.

The Rhino Impact Investment Project receives implementation support on technical conservation, conservation finance and legal from Implementation Partners including Credit Suisse, DLA Piper, Fauna & Flora International (FFI), the IUCN African and Asian Rhino Specialist Groups (AfRSG and AsRSG), Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), UBS and WWF-UK.

The coordinated, collaborative and cross-sector approach used to deliver the RII financing mechanism will provide a blueprint to aid the development of similar projects in the future and create a valuable knowledge base for the field of conservation finance.

As Oliver Withers, head of conservation finance and enterprise at the Zoological Society of London, told Bloomberg: “There is huge scope for this to be used for other species.”

To find out more visit the United for Wildlife website

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