We Did It…Again!

First of its kind Eco Pals™ are now even more sustainable with 100% recycled plush materials

In 2018, we set the industry standard with the first of its kind Eco Pals™ – a line of holistically sustainable produced plush.  Now, we’ve set yet another standard by developing plush materials – both the fabric and backing – made from 100% completely recycled materials, making Eco Pals even more sustainable! 

Our new sustainable plush fabrics are made from recycled PET flakes that were originally plastic water bottles and are produced by Certified Global Recycled Standard (GRS) suppliers, meeting international safety and quality standards. We have already begun transitioning our current 30-piece assortment of 8″-10″ Eco Pals to these recycled plush materials! And to be introduced in February are new species in the current Eco Pal size and a NEW large Eco Pal size, all using the recycled fabrics.   

When we launched Eco Pals last year, Wildlife Trading Company was committed to taking a holistic approach to sustainability, from production to delivery to merchandising. Eco Pals has proven to be an industry game changer…and we’re only getting started.

James Ward, CEO of Wildlife Trading Company states:

“Our goal is to convert as much of our merchandise to sustainable and conservation- based products as possible, and Eco Pals™ moves us further along this path. We are excited to be able to offer a 100% sustainable line of quality and affordable plush that illustrates and supports the conservation efforts of our partners. Eco Pals is just another example of how Wildlife Trading Company is the most sustainable and conservation conscious retail operator in cultural attractions. With conservation at our core, we enjoy being the trailblazer in our industry and take pride in others following us on this venture.”

Using 100% recycled materials is just another step in Wildlife Trading Company’s evolution of eco-friendlier retail. In 2013 we removed all unnecessary plastic whiskers and beads from our plush, and in 2014 we stopped using plastic bags in our stores. In 2017 we stopped using all single-use bags, eliminated selling beverages in plastic bottles, and worked with vendors to eliminate plastic from their packaging and shipping materials. And while sequins and glitter are currently trending in plush and toys, we will never use these materials given the horrific damage these microplastics wreak on wildlife. It’s all part of our authentic Planet Over Profit™ initiative – to make products that truly impact conservation efforts around the world. 

The Myopia of Microplastics

Put simply, plastic is killing our environment.  Plastic beads, sequins and glitter, all considered “microplastics” — plastics 5 millimeters and smaller — that are used in plush toys, are devastating our environment by polluting our oceans and causing suffocation, starvation and the drowning of marine life.

In our industry examples of these microplastics are “beads, beans or pellets”, sequins and glitter, and for many manufacturers these materials are primary components of plush as well as other toys.  And while companies use these materials to try to improve the attraction of their products, the damage these microplastics cause to our environment, regardless if they are made with recycled materials, is undeniable.

Scientists estimate 8 trillion microbeads in the U.S. alone are making their way into our waterways — daily.  Add to that a variety of other types of plastics, including sequins, beads and glitter that are not captured in the recycling process because they are too small, and you have an environmental crisis that continues to grow exponentially.

Our Pledge Against Plastics

While we cannot control the use of microplastics in other industries, we can control what products we source and sell in our stores.

We know that some of the larger plush suppliers rely upon sequins and other microplastics due to recent popularity in order gain a visual competitive edge, but at a tremendous cost to our environment.  We strongly believe these types of products do not fit into the mission of our partners.

That’s why Wildlife Trading Company does not sell plush products that contain beads/beans/pellets, sequins or glitter given the horrific damage these microplastics wreak on wildlife.  We eliminated using plastic bags in all of our retail stores, saving hundreds of thousands of unnecessary pieces of plastic from entering into our environment and contributing to the growing epidemic. In addition to the plastic bags, we are also eliminating the use of glitter tattoos at all of our locations, effectively eliminating another form of microplastic from entering the environment.

Wildlife Trading Company’s eyes are wide open to the microplastic crisis that is unfolding, and we do not want our plush to be a part of the problem. That’s why you’ll never see plush that contains these materials in our stores. We are making every effort, throughout our organization, to eliminate microplastics period.

That’s our pledge to uphold the missions and vision of our wildlife partners. As well as our pledge to wildlife and the environment we cherish.

Imitation is not only the sincerest form of flattery, but good for our industry.

We get it. We really do. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and with the recent news that other retail concession companies are partnering with competing plush toy companies to develop their versions of “eco-friendly” plush to compete against our Eco Pals, we quite frankly couldn’t be happier!

That’s because with more vendors producing eco-friendly products, our industry becomes greener and more conservation-minded  and that’s a big win for everyone — zoos, aquariums, cultural attractions, conservationists, and most importantly, our wildlife.

So as the leaders in raising the industry standard, as evidenced by people following us, we wanted to reiterate just how passionate we are about what we do — every single day.

It’s all about walking the talk

Since our founding in 1976, we have built both Wildlife Trading Company and Wildlife Artists Inc. on one singular core value — to create the highest quality products and retail environments that are grounded with a genuine and passionate care for wildlife conservation.  Our team is not just designers, buyers, and retailers, but naturalists, outdoors people and conservationists. Our true passion is wildlife and helping to maintain the delicate balance between “our world” and the world we live in. 

We’ve traveled extensively to Africa, Central America and the Asian rainforests and developed partnerships with local artisans and conservation groups to develop products.    

By working one-on-one with these local artists and conservationists, we are aiding conservation efforts on a grass-roots level that not only help the wildlife, but also help sustain the local economy while yielding truly authentic merchandise for our product lines and stores. 

Conservation and protecting our environment are not just about how we conduct business, but about who we are…it’s in our DNA. As is being genuine and authentic in everything we do and create.

James Ward, WTC CEO, helping wild dogs ensnared with wire traps in Zimbabwa.

So, while others continue to imitate us by developing similar products, we can only hope that they fully take our lead and “walk the talk”. Then we all win.

Oglebay Announces New Partnership with Wildlife Trading Company

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August 24, 2017

Lindsey McGlaughlin, Oglebay Marketing Manager – 304-243-4127

Herb Faulkenberry, Oglebay Vice President of Sales and Marketing – 304-243-4114


Oglebay Announces New Partnership with Wildlife Trading Company

Oglebay announces a new partnership with Wildlife Trading Company (WTC) to provide a best-in-class shopping experience at many of the park’s retail outlets, including Carriage House Glass, Farmhouse Sweets & Treats, Nature Express at the Good Zoo, and The Resort Shop at Wilson Lodge.  The partnership will take effect on October 1, 2017, just in time for Oglebayfest, Boo at the Zoo and Festival of Lights.

“I’m excited about this new partnership,” said Steve Hilliard, President and CEO of Wheeling Park Commission.  “Over time, the retail industry has become extremely specialized and competitive. In order to keep pace and consistently offer products and services that delight our customers, it’s necessary to partner with an industry-leading retailer like Wildlife Trading Company. In addition to providing guests and community members with a best-in-class shopping experience, a brand new selection of merchandise will further diversify the retail options available to local shoppers.”

Most importantly, WTC will provide specialized support and buying expertise, enabling Oglebay to offer a refreshed inventory of exciting new products and a memorable shopping experience. WTC’s transition to Oglebay will be virtually invisible to visitors, as WTC will become an extension of Oglebay’s existing retail team and current retail employees will have the opportunity to continue employment.

“Oglebay knows the needs and expectations of its visitors better than anyone else and we could never claim to have that knowledge,” says James Ward, President and CEO of Wildlife Trading Company.  “It is our job to bring the beauty and excitement of Oglebay into each of the shops, creating a cohesive and delightful shopping experience for all visitors.  I couldn’t be more excited to partner with such a respected and loved property.  We look forward to carrying the retail torch and providing an exceptional shopping experience for visitors and community members.”



Wildlife Trading Company manages retail operations at leisure and cultural attractions in North America and Caribbean. WTC is recognized as the leader in retail operations by developing the highest quality retail experiences. With a highly experienced corporate and retail staff, WTC continues to be the innovator in store design, product development, operations and customer service; achieving an average increase of over 100% in per capita revenues. Wildlife Trading Company prides itself in developing customized relationships, store designs and products to meet the unique needs of each partner and its guests. Learn more at www.wtcnm.com.



Located in Wheeling, WV, Oglebay offers 1,700 acres of year-round recreational opportunities and excellent overnight accommodations, while maintaining the property’s natural beauty. Oglebay is the perfect venue for events, meetings, vacations, weekend getaways, relaxing at the spa or golfing on one of four golf courses, including two championship courses. For generations, families, groups, organizations and individuals have indulged in the tradition and spirit that make Oglebay unique. Learn more at www.oglebay.com.


Doing Good

I’m challenging Wildlife Trading Company to make a positive difference in the world.

Last month was the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Mid-Year meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the home of our very first retail partnership at the Rio Grande Zoo.  Throughout the week, one thing was clear…

Now more than ever, our industry needs to make a positive difference in the world.

The passion for doing good encompasses three areas:

  • Saving endangered species
  • Sustainability
  • Helping people and cultures be more self-sufficient

Wildlife Trading Company is dedicated to be an industry leader in all three areas.  We were proud to present at the AZA Mid-Year Green Summit Reception, where attendees were interested in hearing about our green initiatives.  Our no single-use bag policy in all of our stores (plastic or paper) was a crowd pleaser.

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Wildlife Trading Company’s Retail Manager and BioPark Green Team member, Robin Purley, presenting our conservation efforts at the AZA Mid-Year Green Summit

Well before the AZA meeting, we decided it was time to take an even stronger stance on doing what is right. Overall, our values and value proposition have not changed, but our priorities have. We decided that, moving ahead, we are placing a greater emphasis on partnerships and practices that promote global stewardship; the care, consideration and conservation of culture and nature.

We’ve identified 5 areas of focus:

  1. Consistently improve upon our own environmentally friendly practices throughout the organization; in both our offices and stores.
  2. Become a more proactive collaborator with our partners on:
    • Instituting better conservation practices.
    • Increasing efforts to educate visitors about current challenges and how they can make a difference.
    • Developing more programs to help our partners make a positive change in the world through the conservation, cultural and ecological causes they champion.
  3. Continue to improve sourcing products from eco-friendly companies, using eco-friendly materials, practices and packaging.
  4. Collaborate directly with non-profit organizations to help move their efforts forward.
  5. Represent great art and crafts from “at risk” cultures and ones with a heritage of embracing nature.
    • Culture and conservation are intrinsically tied together.  If cultures can become less at risk, their openness to conservation becomes greater.
    • This initiative will help visitors and buyers better understand and appreciate the quality and artistry of other cultures, while learning of their challenges and supporting them at the same time.
    • We’ll be sharing more about this initiative in the near future.

We’ll be reaching out to many of you to discuss ways we can partner to do good.  Feel free to contact us directly with suggestions and propositions.

Based on current understanding of plastics and how they affect the environment and our food chain, I am challenging Wildlife Trading Company to develop a plan to significantly reduce the amount of plastic in our stores (products and packaging).

I know we are up to that challenge.

Let us know what you are up to.

~ James

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Photo of endangered African Painted Dogs at sunset I took last year.  We’re working to make sure that, in reality, the sun does not finally set on this species.

Success at the Oklahoma Aquarium

Congratulations to the team at our newly remodeled shop at the Oklahoma Aquarium (pictured above), which just had its most successful weekend ever last weekend!  This happened because Wildlife Trading Company approached its store remodel in a direct partnership with the Aquarium, coordinating efforts to also support the opening of the new Sea Turtle Island attraction.

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Oklahoma’s New Sea Turtle Island Exhibit

“The Oklahoma Aquarium and the city of Jenks have taken their aquarium to the next level with the addition of the Sea Turtle Island exhibit,” said Kathy Wagner, our SW Regional Manager.  “Our staff is proud to be a part of this exciting addition.  Visitors will be able to enjoy and appreciate just how wonderful this exhibit is.  We hope all will visit our Gift Shop and see our new selection of Sea Turtle products.”

“The Oklahoma Aquarium and the city of Jenks have taken their aquarium to the next level.”  ~ Kathy Wagner, SW Regional Manager

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We added a Turtle Corner to complement the new attraction. 

Like we do with all our shops, we customize the design and product mix to match the attraction’s experience and visitor needs.  When we succeed, it’s a win for both Wildlife Trading Company and our partners.

Racing Through Alaska

The 2017 Iditarod Ceremonial Start

The 45th Iditarod race is underway and Wildlife Trading Company was there again to support our partner, the Iditarod Trail Committee (ITC).  By the time the race ends in Nome, our team will have operated 8 temporary shops in 3 cities, in addition to ITC’s headquarter and online and online stores.

I am proud to say we continue to achieve increases in year over year sales.

Early morning at the Ceremonial Start line in Anchorage.


During the Ceremonial Start in Anchorage, ITC CEO, Stan Hooley, mentioned in an interview that Wildlife Trading Company is “exploding” in Alaska and  I personally feel that to be a fair assessment.  We’re seeing great success in Alaska because so much about Alaska aligns with our strengths (agility, entrepreneurial spirit and customized relationships) and what’s important to Wildlife Trading Company — the celebration of nature, wildlife and culture.

“Wildlife Trading Company is exploding in Alaska.”

~ Stan Hooley, CEO, Iditarod Trail Committee

Only a few weeks ago, I was able to bring my middle school-aged daughter with me 16684271_10212764055523247_4155413848466465170_nfrom Connecticut to visit the Iditarod headquarters and attend the annual Alaska Marine Gala, hosted by another of our partners, the Alaska SeaLife Center.  She loved the beauty of the state and it gave me pride to show her the wonderful partners we have in Alaska.

Fast forward to last week when I brought an incredible team of employees from all over the U.S., including Florida, to brave the elements and pull off an amazing feat in support of the Iditarod.

One of our sales tents in Anchorage

For the Ceremonial Start in Anchorage, the team braved sub-zero  temperatures to set up tents at 5:00 a.m. along 4th Street in downtown Anchorage for the Ceremonial Start of the Iditarod.  After the event, they loaded up a truck to drive seven hours to set up our operations in Fairbanks for the Official Restart in -31 degree weather.

A monumental feat, that obtained great results!

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Cell phone screen shots of the temperature while setting up at the starting lines.

Many of our team are preparing to travel to Nome to operate our store at the finish line.  I’m proud of the hard work that everyone put in to make this year’s race a resounding success.  However, I am more excited about how well everyone worked together with a positive attitude through such tough conditions.  Their passion for the Iditarod showed and they took time to immerse themselves into Alaska’s nature and culture.

One night, after one of the events, we were able to go out to view and photograph the Northern Lights.  They were beautiful and, for some, it was a bucket list experience.

The Northern Lights Outside Anchorage, Photo by James Ward

Having Partnerships outside of the continental U.S. can be a challenge for some.  At a minimum, you need to have strong operations, employees with unmatched experience and you need to have senior management there, in person, on a regular basis.

However to do it right, you also need to have a team with passion and a strong belief in the company and be blessed enough to work with partners who share a common vision with yours… all elements of our success.

From left to right:  James Ward (President & CEO, WTC), Chas St. John (COO, ITC), Lisa Baptista (Business Development Manager, WTC), Stan Hooley (CEO, ITC)

Is Wildlife Trading Company exploding in Alaska?  You bet.  But we’re exploding elsewhere too, as we now operate in 10 countries across North America, the Caribbean and Europe.

We truly are the right sized partner for achieving results.

Stay tuned.

Note:  We’re preparing a video that highlights what we do in Alaska and will update this blog when when it is completed.

Wildlife Trading Company Announces New Leadership

New President and CEO set to build on company’s success and vision

jamesSOUTHBURY, CT (February 7, 2017) – Wildlife Trading Company, the premier retail outsource partner for leisure and cultural attractions, today announced the promotion of James Ward to President and CEO and Caroline Ward to Chief Relationship Manager.

James, who joined the company in 1996 as Product Development Manager, will lead the company as it continues to build upon its exceptional growth over the past decade, while Caroline will be taking on executive management roles, overseeing special projects and developing relationships with partners and key customers.

“As COO, James took our retail consulting practice and grew us into an extremely successful international outsourcing services company,” said Gerry Ward, the company’s founder.  “And now as President, he has a clear vision for moving the company forward with steady, sustainable growth,” Ward added.  Gerry is stepping down as President and CEO, but will retain his role as Chairman of the Board.

“We’re successful because, unlike larger competitors in our industry, we provide our partners with customized relationships and create truly unique and engaging retail environments,” says James Ward.  He continues, “With our growth, we’ve never lost sight of the need to have a truly collaborative approach with our clients.”  It’s that approach that has resulted in an 85% overall average increase in spending per customer over the history of Wildlife Trading Company’s partnerships, with some partners seeing increases of over 200%.

“Today we’re in ten countries and large enough to service any attraction, but we’re small enough to care,” says Ward.  In that spirit of caring, Wildlife Trading Company takes great pride in offering products that educate the consumer and adopting programs and policies that support Fair Trade, wildlife conservation and the environment.

James is a graduate from Boston College and NYU’s Stern School of Business.  He’s an avid wildlife photographer, along with Gerry, and his passion for conservation and the environment has led to Wildlife Trading Company being a leader in establishing “green” principles internally, in its stores and in the products and programs it offers.

About Wildlife Trading Company:  Wildlife Trading Company manages retail operations at zoos, aquariums, museums, botanic gardens and other leisure, cultural and adventure attractions.  We pride ourselves in developing customized relationships, store designs and products to meet the unique needs of each partner and its guests.


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Growing with Vision and Clarity

2016-with-titleOver the years, I’ve had the honor of experiencing the many benefits of being part of a successful family-owned business (Wildlife Trading Company). One of those benefits was being able to spend two weeks in the bush in Zimbabwe last year with my father, Gerry. We share a passion for wildlife and wildlife photography and I’ve joined him in Africa a few times since I was a teenager.  This year’s trip felt even more special – and more important than ever before.

1997-with-titleWildlife Trading Company has experienced amazing growth in recent years and we’re now operating some of the finest attraction gift shops in 10 countries. The time away from the office with my dad, on the other side of the world, allowed us to disconnect from the daily minutiae and discuss strategy and the future of the business. Even more importantly, I listened to my father tell many stories about his experiences starting the company, what he had to deal with, and why he did it. These conversations at a waterhole or around the camp fire helped me gain clarity that for Wildlife Trading Company to continue its growth and foster long-lasting partnerships, we must never lose sights on why we do what we do.

  • We love the artistry in designing creative, engaging one-of-a-kind shopping experiences
  • We love collaborating, which is why we use the term partners instead of clients
  • We love discovering high quality, imaginative, realistic and authentic products for our shops
  • We love doing what we can to educate children and adults about science, nature and wildlife and supporting our partners in their conservation and fundraising efforts

Although Wildlife Trading Company has grown well beyond “Mom and Pop Shop” status, it is important to me to make sure we never grow too much or too fast to stop caring and never lose sight of what we love to do.

I’ve entered 2017 with renewed pride and clarity and the lessons learned while with my father in Africa will guide me as I lead the company into the future.

Stay tuned.