Many conservationists nowadays talk about the urgent need to value nature. To bring out the ‘true value’ of nature and make conservation compatible with poverty reduction, so the argument goes, it must be appropriated into the realm of commodities and priced in monetary terms. By employing the concept of ‘derivative nature’, this paper explores the consequences of this neoliberal move. Derivatives are financial mechanisms whose monetary value is literally derived from the value of underlying assets. They were originally devised to reduce risk in the marketplace, but have actually made the global financial market immensely more complex and created more systemic risk and uncertainty because of their susceptibility to speculation. The paper suggests that similar processes can be seen in the arena of conservation. It argues that both nature and ‘the poor’ are increasingly becoming ‘underlying assets’ for what has become the ‘real’ source of value of neoliberal conservation, namely images and symbols within the realms of branding, public relations and marketing. Empirically grounded in a discussion on transfrontier conservation in Southern Africa in the run-up to the 2010 soccer World Cup, the paper examines the consequences of ‘derivative nature’ and calls for critical thinking to start facing these consequences.