Home Conservation Policy & Climate Climate Change & Conservation
Climate change is no longer
a distant vision…

of a troubled future but the collective reality of the 21st century. 

Over the past century there has been a drastic rise in global temperatures with significant repercussions for people and wildlife alike. This has been driven by huge increases in greenhouse gas emissions, largely generated through the burning of fossil fuels and land use change. 

Many of the world’s biggest challenges, from poverty to wildlife extinction, are either driven or exacerbated by climate change. We are already seeing increases in the severity and frequency of extreme weather events, rising sea levels, melting ice caps and ocean acidification. These events threaten to erode the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health, and quality of life worldwide.

Will Fortescue
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation


The Paris Agreement in 2015 set an ambitious goal of limiting climate temperature rises to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.  

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

But the current (non-binding) commitments by countries and lack of action on the ground means that goal will be dramatically missed. 

The short-termism inherent in politics, the influence of powerful lobbies representing fossil fuel, logging, mining, and agricultural industries amongst others, as well as over-consumption, and a focus on economic growth narrowly defined by unhelpful indicators such as GDP, all contribute to the lack of action.

Why is climate change important to DSWF?

Artwork by Nick Jones
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

DSWF operate in some of the countries that are likely to be hit hardest by the climate crisis, despite them doing almost nothing to cause it – and we work with communities amongst the most vulnerable to its impacts. Our project partners are already reporting dramatic and negative changes to the climate in areas they work in, making their task of protecting endangered wildlife and supporting communities even more challenging.

In the South Gobi region of Mongolia, where we work to protect snow leopards, there have been significant changes in rainfall patterns, with 2021 and 2022 being very dry. Temperatures have also increased here much faster than the global average, and once fertile land is increasingly lost to desertification. Snow leopard prey such as ibex and argali are increasingly forced to move to higher altitudes for better grazing, meaning snow leopards must follow them, often to less suitable and smaller habitats.

In another of our projects protecting snow leopards, in Kyrgyzstan, the impacts of climate change are just as bleak and disastrous for the big cats and local people alike. Lack of water due to reduced rain and snow, rapidly decreasing glaciers, and record-high temperatures are increasing the frequency and severity of mass die-offs of wildlife. In 2022, the Sarychat Ertash Nature Reserve estimates that approximately 900 argali and 500 ibex died due to an unprecedented heatwave, dramatically reducing the snow leopard’s prey base.

Snow Leopard Trust
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Snow Leopard Trust
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

In Thailand where we work to protect tigers, the impacts of climate change, including sustained drier and hotter periods, have led to a significant increase in the frequency and severity of forest fires. 

The fires are destroying the forest structure, so all that remains are invasive grasses, palms, and bamboo. These can’t provide the deep root system required for water retention and consequently flash floods have become an issue, along with drought during the dry season.

Local communities are increasingly vulnerable to this flooding, and the forests are no longer ideal habitats for tigers and their prey. Our project partners on the ground are working with communities to set up community initiatives on reforestation and to restore watersheds to mitigate some of these destructive climate impacts.

Silke Hullmann
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation


The world’s forests alone absorb 2.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year yet an area the size of a football pitch is destroyed every second through human exploitation and forest fires.

What is the role of wildlife and their habitats in combating climate change?

Protecting wildlife also helps the fight against climate crisis. Forest elephants play a huge role in shaping the ecosystems they live in. Elephants, with their huge appetites, thin out vegetation and reduce the number of small trees, helping in turn to encourage growth of taller trees with a wider diameter, which have a greater capacity to store carbon. 

Research by the International Monetary Fund has shown that a single African forest elephant can increase the carbon storage of African rainforests by 9,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per kilometer. The carbon value of a single forest elephant is estimated by the IMF to be $1.75m. Projects funded by DSWF help protect elephants and their habitats across Africa and Asia, including in Thailand, India, Vietnam, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Namibia.  

Elephants are just one of many keystone species who play this crucially import role of ‘ecosystem engineer’. Large herbivores in particular help increase carbon stocks in soil, roots, and plants by dispersing seeds, managing vegetation through grazing and browsing, and fertilizing the soil. They can also reduce the risk of forest fires by browsing on vegetation that could potentially cause out of control fires, and trampling gaps in the bush which act as firebreaks.  

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Protecting wildlife also helps the fight against climate crisis. 

Silke Hullmann

What is DSWF doing to mitigate and adapt to climate change?

Artwork by Joni-Leigh Doran
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

By working with ground-based conservation partners in Africa and Asia, our holistic approach to conservation is helping conserve 158,000 kmof prime wildlife habitat.

Large portions of this landscape include forest, grassland and wetland ecosystems which are essential in carbon sequestration on a global scale alongside a huge variety of species which allow these landscapes to thrive.

Alongside supporting traditional law enforcement activities to protect these habitats, DSWF is working with community members living adjacent to wildlife to develop alternative livelihood programmes. These programmes reduce reliance on environmentally destructive activities whilst simultaneously enhancing income potential. We also run a far-reaching conservation education programme inspiring and motivating children to become the environmental leaders of tomorrow. To learn more about DSWF’s work, click here.

DSWF is currently conducting an in-depth review of our own carbon footprint and working to develop a strategy to reduce the negative environmental impact of our UK-based office.

Help us fight climate change

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

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