Heart of Wild: The Model

The Heart of Wild model is simple:

When new, sustainable economic opportunity is brought to biodiversity hotspots it can help decrease the illegal activities threatening wildlife and its habitat, and in turn protect the future of some of our planet’s most endangered species.

The fact that many people living in biodiversity hotspots are forced to exploit wildlife its habitat due to a lack economic opportunities is the first challenge the Heart of Wild business model addresses. The second challenge is that funding for global wildlife conservation can be an ongoing struggle for many nonprofit organizations working in this arena, but without them many of species would likely face extinction. Coupling these challenges led to the idea of a two-part social business model that Heart of Wild uses today. The first part addresses the lack economic opportunity by creating alternative and sustainable sources of income for individuals living in high human-wildlife conflict regions. The second addresses the need for greater support in the species conservation arena by donating a portion of all proceeds directly to established nonprofit organizations working to protect wildlife species in these communities.

All the handcrafted products in Heart of Wild market tell a unique story, one that highlights both the wildlife and the people from the region it came from. Specifically, each item sold represents an endangered species that is indigenous to the biodiversity hotspot where it was made and to which the proceeds from that product line will benefit. In addition, each item comes with the story of the artisan who made it and discusses the conservation challenges their community faces. 


The Heart of Wild business model was inspired by the wild chimpanzees of the The Guinean Forests of West Africa. Despite chimpanzees being our closest living relatives, sharing more than 98% of our genetic makeup, they are one of the most threatened wildlife species on the planet. It is estimated that wild populations have declined by more than half in the last half-century. Today, only a few countries have significant populations remaining with some of the largest populations existing in the The Guinean Forests of West Africa.

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This biodiversity hotspot is actually one of the most critically fragmented regions in the world, and only an estimated 15 percent of its original forest cover areas remain. The current state of the Guinean Forests of West Africa is a reflection of hundreds of years of unsustainable commercial (and illegal) logging, mining and hunting. Specifically large-scale commercial logging, mining and plantations, such as those that produce oil palm and rubber and are often followed by slash-and-burn agri-practices, are noted for placing extreme stress on the habitats within this region. In addition, the growing human population in and around this hotspot is adding to smaller-scale activities such as wildlife poaching as well as illegal harvesting of what remains of these natural forests. The region’s current population density is estimated to be 137 people per square kilometer, and further research suggests that the human population of all West African countries will double by 2025. This means that the pressures being placed on the region’s wildlife and its habitat are likely to increase, and in turn jeopardize the existence of one of the most bio-rich and therefore important pieces of our planet’s ecosystem.

It was out of a passion to protect wild chimpanzees and their habitat that Heart of Wild came up with its first product line based on the above model. Now, a portion of the proceeds from every item in The Guinean Forests of West Africa collection that is sold is donated to on-the-ground chimpanzee conservation efforts in the region.