Rhett Butler

Rhett Butler founded Mongabay.com in 1999 with the mission of raising interest in and appreciation of wild lands and wildlife.

Today Rhett serves as CEO of Mongabay.org, a non-profit journalism organization with more than 80 staff across two dozen countries and over 900 contributing journalists. Mongabay operates several bureaus, including the global English news site, Mongabay-Latam (Spanish), Mongabay-India (English and Hindi), Mongabay-Brasil (Portuguese), and Mongabay-Indonesia (Indonesian). It also runs capacity-building programs for environmental journalists and an environmental education site.

Beyond Mongabay, Rhett was co-founder of Tropical Conservation Science, an open-access academic journal that aims to provide opportunities for scientists in developing countries to publish their research, and the Tropical Forest Network, a social network in the San Francisco Bay Area that held nearly 100 in-person events on forest issues between 2009-2019. Rhett also founded WildMadagascar.org, a site that highlights the spectacular cultural and biological richness of Madagascar.

Rhett Butler in a peat swamp in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo
Rhett Butler in a peat swamp in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo

Outside of these pursuits, Rhett has advised a wide range of organizations, including governments, multilateral development agencies, media outlets, academic institutions, foundations, and private sector entities. He has been an information source for the BBC, CNN, CBS, NBC, Fox News, National Geographic, the Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine, Business Week, Bloomberg, the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Reuters, Voice of America, the Associated Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the L.A. Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Vice, and Forbes, among others.

Rhett also speaks regularly on topics surrounding forests and the environment (especially trends in deforestation and conservation technology) and new media. He has spoken at Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of California at Santa Cruz, the National University of Singapore, USAID, ETH Zurich, the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, UNFCCC conferences, Google, Microsoft, Patagonia, Cisco, Yale University, Cornell University, Columbia University, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and Stony Brook University, among other places and events. In 2011 and 2012 he participated in the U.S. State Department Speakers Program in Indonesia.

Rhett Ayers Butler in San Mateo County, California.
Rhett in San Mateo County, California in 2023.

Rhett’s work has been published outside of his web sites, including magazines, newspapers, online media, and academic journals (see below). His photos have appeared in hundreds of publications.

In September 2011 Rhett published RAINFORESTS, a book about rainforests geared toward kids. The text is based on the popular mongabay kids’ section and includes more than 150 photos.

In September 2014, Rhett became the first journalist to win the Parker/Gentry Award, a conservation prize given annually by the Field Museum in Chicago. In 2020, Rhett was given a Pongo Environmental Award and in 2021, the SEAL Environmental Journalism Award. In 2022, Rhett was recognized with the Heinz Award.

See Rhett’s motivation for starting mongabay.com. Further background on Rhett is available at the FAQs/Interview page

Rhett’s TEDxYouth talk in 2010. event footage.

Highlighted publications













Other activities

Posts and videos about Mongabay’s origin