Mongabay Features

Investing in African wildlife: An interview with David Bonderman

David Bonderman is one of the best known figures in private equity, having made his name and fortune by taking over undervalued companies and turning them around. Bonderman, the founding partner of TPG Capital (formerly Texas Pacific Group) and its affiliate Newbridge Capital, has bought and sold companies ranging from Continental Airlines to Petco to J. Crew. His lifetime of investing has made him a billionaire.

But Bonderman’s interests aren’t limited to the world of business — he’s also a philanthropist who has put tens of millions of dollars via his Wildcat Foundation into anti-poaching and wildlife conservation efforts in Africa. This support has gone to groups working to combat ivory and rhino horn trafficking, develop and deploy technologies to empower wildlife rangers, and create sustainable livelihoods for local people who are directly impacted by wildlife. Bonderman says this portfolio of interventions is needed to address the complex array of issues that underpin poaching.

“The anti-poaching approach has changed with the advent of some kinds of technology,” Bonder told Mongabay during a December 2020 interview. “But these are human issues too because the animals and local people who live in close contact with each other. And if you can’t make things work for the people, you won’t make things work for the animals. So, you have to deal with both, the human side and the poaching side.”

Bonderman has also applied his interest in sustainability to his business strategy, seeking out investments that have “measurable positive impact” and working with portfolio companies reduce waste and improve water and energy efficiency. On this front, Bonderman sees rising interest in the investment community in environmental issues, especially around risks associated with climate change and opportunities as we transition to greener forms of food and energy production.

“The investment community, especially pension funds in the U.S., and Canada, have become interested in environmental and political causes of the sustainable sort,” Bonderman said. “I think that people, including businesses, will pay attention to issues beyond carbon as they get more familiar with what’s going on.”

But he adds that politics are going to be an important factor in how quickly we make progress in addressing challenges like climate change.

“The Trump administration has been notoriously anti-environmental and is trying to do some anti-environmental things as it staggers out of office, which the Biden administration will have to deal with in some fashion,” Bonderman said. “But this is only the start of what’s going to be generations long battle in favor of keeping the environment stable.”

Bonderman spoke about these issues and more in a conversation with Mongabay Founder Rhett A. Butler.


By Rhett Ayers Butler

Rhett Ayers Butler is the Founder and CEO of Mongabay, a non-profit conservation and environmental science news platform. He started Mongabay in 1999 with the mission of raising interest in and appreciation of wild lands and wildlife.