Elizabeth L. Bennett


Wildlife Conservation Society; Vice President, Species Conservation, USA.




Elizabeth (Liz) Bennett is the Vice President for Species Conservation at WCS. She received her B.Sc. in Zoology from Nottingham University, UK, and her Ph.D. from Cambridge University, UK, for field research on the ecology of primates in Peninsular Malaysia. She then moved to Sarawak, Malaysia in 1984 to conduct the first ever detailed field study of the proboscis monkey. She remained in Sarawak for the next 18 years. After her own studies of the effects of hunting and logging on wildlife, her time in Sarawak culminated with her leading a team of WCS and Sarawak Government staff to write a comprehensive wildlife policy for the State, and subsequently to head a unit within the Government to oversee its implementation. This included providing technical input for new wildlife laws, overseeing their implementation through education and enforcement programs, and assisting in planning Sarawak’s protected area system. After that, she moved to New York to become Director, Hunting and Wildlife Trade Program at WCS. This included working with WCS field staff to develop policies on bushmeat trade in Central Africa and a WCS strategy to address illegal wildlife trade in China.

Her current role involves overseeing WCS’s species conservation programs globally. She has trained wildlife practitioners at many levels, from post-graduate students to government wildlife staff in Sarawak, Sabah, Myanmar and China. She has published widely, with more than 120 scientific and popular publications.

I came into this field because of a passion, acquired many years ago as an undergraduate, to conserve the world’s wildlife. This led me to do a PhD in primate ecology, and remain for many years in the field in Malaysia. Over time, this involved increasingly working with governments and others in Malaysia and then elsewhere to help put into place policies and practices to support conservation.

Initially, I studied primates in Malaysia, including the weird and wonderful proboscis monkey. That evolved into studies on the effects of logging and hunting on wildlife in Malaysian Borneo. More recently, I have focused on strategic planning -- how to address key threats facing species, and how best to prioritize, undertake, and monitor progress.

Unsustainable wildlife trade, its drivers, correlates, and ways to address it.

Ridder of the Golden Ark from HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands;

Pegawai Bintang Sarawak (PBS) (“Order of the Star of Sarawak”) from the Sarawak Government, Malaysia;

MBE from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II;

DSc (Honoris causa) from Nottingham University;

Merdeka Award for Outstanding Contribution to the People of Malaysia.

More than 120 popular and scientific publications. These include:

Bennett, E.L. (1986). Environmental correlates of ranging behaviour in the banded langur, Presbytis melalophos. Folia Primatol., 47: 26-38.

Bennett, E.L. and Sebastian, A.C. (1988). Social organization and ecology of proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus) in mixed coastal forest in Sarawak. Int.J.Primatol., 9(3): 233-255.

Bennett, E.L. and Reynolds, C.J. (1993). The value of a mangrove area in Sarawak. Biodiversity and Conservation, 2: 359-375.

Bennett, E.L. and Zainuddin Dahaban (1995). Responses of wildlife to different types of disturbance in Sarawak, and implications for forest management. In: Ecology, Conservation, and Management of Southeast Asian Rainforests (eds. R.B. Premack and T. Lovejoy), pp. 66-86. Yale University Press.

Bennett, E.L., Nyaoi, A.J. and Sompud, J. (1997). Hornbills Buceros spp. and culture in Northern Borneo: can they continue to co-exist? Biological Conservation 82: 41-46.

Robinson, J.G., Redford, K.H. and Bennett, E.L. (1999). Wildlife harvest in logged tropical forests. Science, 284 (Apr 23rd): 595-596.

Bennett, E.L., Nyaoi, A.J. and Sompud, J. (2000). Saving Borneo’s bacon: the sustainability of hunting in Sarawak and Sabah. In: Hunting for Sustainability in Tropical Forests (eds. J.G. Robinson and E.L. Bennett), pp. 305-324. Columbia University Press, New York.

Robinson, J.G. and Bennett, E.L. (editors) (2000). Hunting for Sustainability in Tropical Forests. Columbia University Press, New York. viii+582 pp, 25 chapters with 41authors.

Bennett, E.L. (2000). Timber certification -- where is the voice of the biologist? Conservation Biology 14(4): 921-923.

 Bennett, E.L. and Gumal, M.T. (2001). The inter-relationships of commercial logging, hunting, and wildlife in Sarawak, and recommendations for forest management.  In: The Cutting Edge: Conserving Wildlife in Managed Tropical Forests (eds. R.A. Fimbel, A. Grajal and J.G. Robinson), pp. 359-374. Columbia University Press, New York.

Bennett, E.L. (2002). Is there a link between wild meat and food security? Conservation Biology 16(3): 590-592.

Bennett, E., Eves, H., Robinson, J. and Wilkie, D. (2002). Why is eating bushmeat a biodiversity crisis? Conservation in Practice 3(2): 28-29.

Milner-Gulland, E.J., Bennett, E.L. and the SCB 2002 Annual Meeting Wild Meat Group (2003). Wild meat – the bigger picture. Trends in Ecology and Evolution (TREE) 18(7): 351-357.

Robinson, J.G. and Bennett, E.L. (2004). Having your wildlife and eating it too: an analysis of hunting sustainability across tropical ecosystems. Animal Conservation 7: 397-408.

Bennett, E.L., Blencowe, E., Brandon, K., Brown, D., Burn, R.W., Cowlishaw, G., Davies, G., Dublin, H., Fa, J.E., Milner-Gulland, E.J., Robinson, J.G., Rowcliffe, J.M., Underwood, F.M., and Wilkie, D.S. (2006).  Hunting for consensus: reconciling bushmeat harvest, conservation and development policy in west and central Africa. Conservation Biology 21(3): 884-887.

Bennett, E.L. (2009). Social dimensions of managing hunting in tropical forests. In: Wildlife and Society: The Science of Human Dimensions (eds. M.J. Manfredo, J.J. Vaske, P.J. Brown, D.D. Decker and E.A. Duke), pp. 289-300. Island Press, Washington DC.

Bennett, E.L. (2011). Another inconvenient truth: the failure of enforcement systems to save charismatic species. Oryx, 45(4): 476-479.

Bennett, E.L. (2014). Legal ivory trade in a corrupt world: a recipe for extinction. Conservation Biology, 29(1): 54-60