World Wilderness Congress

History and Background

The World Wilderness Congress (WWC) is an ongoing conservation project, focused on practical outcomes in policy, new wilderness areas, new funding mechanisms, trainings for communities and professionals, and more.

This is a Priority Project of, and receives support from, Wilderness Foundation Global. 

Now the world’s longest-running, public conservation project and environmental forum, the World Wilderness Congress has humble beginnings. WILD Foundation founder Ian Player and his Zulu mentor Magqubu Ntombela were sitting on the banks of the Imfolozi River in 1974. As a team, they had guided many small trips into the African wilderness, leading groups of 8 people at a time for 5 days on trail. This wilderness experience became the Wilderness Leadership School, and the experiences continue to forever change the lives of many participants.

Dr Player and Magqubu Ntombela

On this particular day, however, Magqubu turned to Ian and proposed something that has distinctly influenced the global wilderness conservation scene: “We are doing good work,” he said, “but we need to do more. We should call an INDABA-KULU, a great gathering, for all people to come together for wilderness.”

Three years later, the World Wilderness Congress convened in South Africa, during the apartheid era when it was illegal for all races to gather in one place…but they did. It was a pioneering event in many ways, and introduced the concept of wilderness as an issue of international importance, and the protection of wild nature a necessity for human health and sanity, and for a “right relationship” between people and nature. The Australians were so impressed they asked if there could be a second one, in their country- and that is where Ian Player met Vance Martin. And thus, the story continued. Each Congress pioneered new results and generated real, practical, and  positive conservation results globally. The Congress has now convened 10 times on 5 continents and is the world’s longest-running, public, international conservation project and environmental forum.

Each WWC has a project cycle of two to three years, during which time objectives are identified and coalitions formed to achieve them. The project cycle culminates in an indaba, to use Magqubu’s term, which is not your typical “conference.” The WWC process and indaba integrates leaders from the arts, science, management, government, academia, traditional and native communities, youth and young professionals, corporate sector and the public into a multi-year conservation program, with unique results at each convening. It is the best-known and most effective global platform for debating and acting on wilderness issues.  The WWC provides a balanced approach, taking on highly charged issues in a constructive manner and, most importantly, creating and/or helping to facilitate solutions.

WWCs are also critical venues for education, training, networking, and information exchange across diverse groups. Following each WWC process, we now continue to build this global wilderness community through online communications as we prepare each other for the next.



WILD10 Logo

From 4-10 October, 2013, the WILD10 process took place in Salamanca, Western Spain, where some 1500 delegates from many countries converged, joined by many thousands more online, for 7 days of varied and exciting activities, announcements, cultural events, trainings, associated meetings and symposia, and more.

The main Congress was also preceded by a 2 day Global Intergovernmental Forum on Wilderness  (GIFW), in Salamanca, for government employees of all types – national, provincial, local, communal, tribal, international agencies.

Visit to learn about the many outcomes of the 10th World Wilderness Congress!