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The History of the World Wildlife Fund

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Founded on April 29th, 1961, the World Wildlife Fund or World Wide Fund for Nature, began as an organization to protect endangered animals. It has since expanded its mission to include the conservation of forests, marine life, natural habitats, maintenance of biodiversity and the reduction of climate change. This charitable foundation has strived to do good for our planet, though it also has its share of detractors. In this video, we take a look at the history of the WWF.

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This organization turned the panda into a symbol of the conservation movement. Welcome to and today we’re taking a look at the history of the World Wildlife Fund.


The World Wildlife Fund is an international, non-governmental organization founded April 26th, 1961 by Victor Stolan, Julian Huxley and Max Nicholson in an effort to protect endangered animals. Today, it is known globally as the World Wide Fund for Nature, and its goals have expanded significantly.


Once the founding document, known as The Morges Manifesto, was produced, the WWF opened its first office months later in Morges, Switzerland on September 11th, 1961. On that date, the organization was registered as a charity and its mission to raise funds for wildlife conservation began.


The founders started by supplying grants to non-governmental organizations, based on the best scientific wisdom accessible at the time. One notable early project involved assisting the Indian government in creating reserves for Project Tiger.

Parks and Forests

The WWF also helped set up national parks or reserves in Africa, Asia and Latin America as part of the Tropical Rainforest Campaign. This developed into the WWF’s Forest Programme, which worked to conserve both tropical rainforests and temperate wooded areas.

Marine Life

In the 1970s, the organization set up a number of sanctuaries for marine life in a large-scale campaign called “The Seas Must Live.”


Soon, the focus of the WWF shifted from endangered species and habitat destruction to tackle other conservation-related issues, as well. The group set up offices in different countries to promote its numerous, far-reaching projects.


The mission and strategy was further adjusted when the WWF merged with The Conservation Foundation. Along with the preservation of nature, the group now also aimed to maintain biological diversity, encourage the usage of sustainable resources, decrease pollution and develop communication and collaboration with locals.


Even more new goals were set in the 1990s: while conserving forests was still deemed important, the WWF added freshwater ecosystems, oceans and coasts to its roster of causes.


Today, the WWF continues working to reduce our ecological footprint, but also concentrates on the conservation of over thirty species and eco-regions considered to have the most exceptional and biologically-diverse habitats. In addition, the Global Programme Framework includes Global Initiatives concerning the Amazon, the Arctic, Smart Energy, Smart Fishing, and more.

Policy Changes

Throughout its history, the WWF has attempted to bring about policy changes by both collaborating with and lobbying world governments. For instance, international moratoriums on whaling and the ivory trade are partly the result of the group's efforts. Debt-for-nature swaps are another example, where developing countries can both lower their foreign debt and yield funds for conservation efforts.

Governments and Other Groups

The organization was also instrumental in convincing governments to endorse climate change conventions during the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. The WWF now works with businesses, banks, scientists and other groups on their campaigns, as well.

Global Awareness

As climate change becomes an increasingly significant issue, Earth Hour is one example of an annual event organized by the WWF that raises global awareness. By working with locals and non-governmental organizations to learn about how cultures affect the environment, the group also encourages countries to invent their own conservation strategies.


Since the WWF is a charitable foundation, it receives financing from outside sources. Gifts and individual donations make up the majority of funding, though government agencies, institutions and corporations contribute as well.


However, this has led to criticism. Some have accused the WWF of biased campaigning due to its relationships with certain big businesses. Despite the group's contributions, the under-performance of some of its programs, plus the alleged misrepresentation of certain risks in order to attract more funding, have also drawn criticism.

Harmony With Nature

Since its creation, the WWF's approach to conservation and the environment has evolved from a preservationist plan to one that examines development issues. Now, the World Wildlife Fund seeks solutions for global environmental security and hopes that humanity will one day live in harmony with nature.

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