By supporting creation of protected areas, conservation projects are known to bring economic prosperity to the local communities, but also incite criticism. A common theme in the critique of conservation organizations is the proximity to neoliberal agencies seeking to capitalize on environment, which disadvantage the local communities. Community participation has been proposed as a panacea for neoliberal conservation. However, conservation efficacy is not always contingent on the community involvement and reliance on ‘traditional’ practices in protected areas has not always benefitted biodiversity. Simultaneously, critique of conservation ignores evidence of indigenous activism as well as alternative forms of environmentalism which provide a broader ethical support base for conservation. This article highlights the challenges and contradictions, as well as offers hopeful directions in order to more effectively ground compassionate conservation.