Magical Kenya/KWS
22 Apr 2022 Video Youth, education & environment

Here’s what Edward Norton wants you to know about wildlife conservation

Magical Kenya/KWS

Hollywood staple Edward Norton is best known as the star of modern classics like Fight Club and Birdman.

But the 52-year-old American is also a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity and an avid conservationist, working with organizations around the world to protect what he has called the ”richness of life”.

Edward Norton being guided in Amboseli National Park
Photo: Magical Kenya/KWS

This month, Norton travelled to Kenya to see first-hand how government officials and local communities are banding together to safeguard endangered African elephants. In the last 30 years, Kenya’s elephant population has nearly doubled.

The effort is part of what the three-time Oscar nominee says must be a much larger push to halt the decline of the natural world.

Humans have altered three-quarters of Earth’s surface, and left unchecked, rampant development could one day threaten our survival, he says.

“We have to realize that economic systems that support us rely on healthy ecosystems,” says Norton, the head of the American arm of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, which works to protect some of East Africa’s most famous wild spaces.

Globally, around 1 million species are threatened with extinction.

That’s a sign, Norton says, that the world needs to change its approach to conservation. “For 100 years of the conservation movement, we focused on putting lines around certain protected areas. But it’s not enough. Ecological systems are just too big and too complex to just draw lines in parts of them.”

The three-time Academy Award nominee believes conservationists must find ways to create jobs and other economic opportunities for the often-impoverished communities bordering protected areas. That has long been considered key to combating poaching, which is often an act of desperation.

“In Kenya, the [elephant] population recovery is a success story. But at the same time it’s more than about saving more than certain iconic species,” says Norton.

“If the industries that are created off of natural resources don’t bring a better economic future for communities… it's over, it’s done. It doesn’t matter how many parks you create.”

Check out the video below to learn more about Norton’s trip to Kenya and how you can join the effort to protect the planet’s wild spaces.


International Mother Earth Day is celebrated around the world on 22 April. The 2022 theme ‘invest in nature’ highlights the urgent need to close the USD 4.1 trillion financing gap in nature by 2050 to meet the world’s climate change, biodiversity, and land degradation targets. UNEP’s Finance for Nature report calls for investments in nature-based solutions to triple by 2030 and increase four-fold by 2050.

Hosted by Sweden, the theme of World Environment Day on 5 June 2022 is #OnlyOneEarth - with a focus on ‘Living Sustainably in Harmony With Nature'. Follow #OnlyOneEarth on social media and take transformative, global action, because protecting and restoring this planet is a global responsibility.