Do You Have What it Takes to Work for a Wildlife Advocacy Organization? An Interview With Born Free

By Paula Fitzsimmons with Adam Roberts

If you’ve thought about a career with a major wildlife advocacy organization, you’re not alone. It’s a dream for many an animal activist. . . so your contributions have to be pretty special.

Passion and a desire to make a difference for animals are, of course, vital to working in this field – but so are other skills and characteristics. To help define what this specifically means, I’ve asked Born Free’s chief executive officer, Adam M. Roberts for his input.

I first became familiar with Born Free USA when they were still called Animal Protection Institute, shortly before they merged with Born Free Foundation (their international counterpart) in 2002. We needed help with a community-level issue, and they were there to guide us and answer questions.

For a relatively small organization, Born Free USA is a formidable contender in the animal welfare arena. Some of the issues they’ve tackled include working to get the African Lion listed as endangered; working to increase legal protections for exotic animals kept as “pets”; and confronting the cruelties of the fur industry.

They also partner with global organizations, such as The Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA); and assist with global efforts, including Indian tigers, Honduran macaws, and Ethiopian wildlife. And they care for more than 600 primates at their primate sanctuary located in Dilley, Texas.

Adam Roberts is CEO of Born Free USA.

Adam Roberts is CEO of Born Free USA.

Adam’s contributions are an inspiration. Aside from co-founding Born Free USA and serving as its CEO, he serves on various boards, including for the Species Survival Network (where he also chairs several committees); and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (which he helped to found, and where he serves as president).

If this weren’t enough, he also founded – and runs, on a volunteer basis – The $10 Club, an organization that works to alleviate poverty in developing countries. There is a strong connection between socio-economics and protection of animals & their habitats – so this work is important on different levels.

With some minor editing on my part, here is a look at what Born Free seeks in candidates.

This is the second installment in this series. To learn what it takes to get a job at a parrot sanctuary, read “Do You Have What it Takes to Work for a Parrot Rescue Organization? An Interview With Foster Parrots”.

What Adam looks for in applicants

“We are interested in applicants who are passionate, self-motivated, team players with a genuine interest in making a difference for animals. We value interpersonal skills, communication skills such as writing, and specialized skills (e.g., editing, lobbying, fundraising) required for certain positions.

Additionally, a strong knowledge base covering one or more animal-related issues and experience working on these issues are helpful for applicants aspiring to be part of a campaigns team.

Adam’s best advice for applicants who want to work in the animal advocacy field

“Get as much experience as possible, whether that means volunteering, interning, or requesting informational interviews with professionals in the field. You do not necessarily need to have majored in an animal-related field to be a viable candidate. However, you do need to have experience using the skills (e.g., lobbying, writing, fundraising) relevant to the position you’re applying for, and you do need to have a legitimate interest in animals.” –Adam Roberts

How to stand apart from the rest

“Applicants can stand apart from others by bringing something special to the table. Maybe you are an animal rights activist and a vegan, but your experience and education are in social work. Maybe you have a strong interest in wildlife issues, but you have also spent a year in the field working on environmental issues affecting local communities. A desire to work in the animal advocacy field is not unique in and of itself, so if you have a particular talent, experience, or a niche knowledge base that sets you apart, make this clear in your application materials.

On what’s a turnoff in a candidate

“You need to be more than intelligent, hard-working, and knowledgeable – you need to be deeply interested in the cause. No interest in the cause is a turnoff. In order to effect meaningful change, passion is critical. Additionally, it needs to be clear that the applicant is a team-player. Teamwork and collaboration skills are vital.

Also, you must be a good writer and communicate directly and effectively in your materials. Poor communication skills – written and verbal – won’t work here. Finally, it is crucial that you show a specific direct interest in the advertised job and the organization, not just a general job at any organization – this is not one size fits all. Be sure to have skills that are advertised in the job you are applying for!”

After reading this article, do you think you have what it takes to work for an organization such as Born Free?


Image credits: Elephant 7802281 (minus type and additional design) and wolf 30482628 from


  1. Without a doubt, I feel qualified and ready.
    A second career of passion would me and the advocacy group well.

  2. Animal Jobs Digest |

    Thanks for commenting, Ed.

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