World Wildlife Fund History

Updated April 13, 2018
Panda With Cub In Field

Today the World Wildlife Fund is an international organization striving to protect nature and the animals that live within it. The history of this organization a testament to future generations of what can be accomplished in nature preservation with a healthy combination of passion and commitment.

Small Beginnings

In the early 1960s, a small group of organizations, both home and abroad, existed to benefit nature and the animals that depended upon precious resources it provided. These included:

While these groups were well-meaning and organized, their successes were minimal due to a lack of funding. At the time, conservation and green living were as pertinent issues as they are today, and such groups needed to work hard to raise even a slight bit of awareness and financial resources.

Creating the Fund

On September 11, 1961, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) was created in Switzerland by a small group of European environmentalists. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands became the first president of the organization. The WWF was designated to be an international fund raising group that collaborated with conservation groups already in existence to fund their work and research. As the money was raised through national appeals and awareness campaigns, the WWF used the scientific advice provided by top groups to decide where the funding would be best directed.

Finding Funding

In the early years, funding was difficult to come by for WWF. However, thanks to legislation, aid, and developed resources, WWF's funding has greatly increased through the years.

Early Funding

WWF's first call to raise funds was the Morges Manifesto. Signed in 1961, the document declared the world's population had the resources and expertise to save the planet, but it did not have the finances to do so. This justified the existence of the WWF, which would work on behalf of the environment without relying on government funding or dictation.

Current Funding

Since then, WWF has evolved to include many projects, committees, and organizations. Here in the United States, WWF is an independent organization and continues to be instrumental in worldwide efforts. The organization regularly signs a Memorandum of Understanding, which contains an agreement on the implementation of activities within the network.

A Timeline of World Wildlife Fund History

Beyond the beginning foundation, much has happened at the WWF in the past five decades.

The 1960s and 1970s

In the early years, the fund codified its mission and began to establish itself.

  • The British National Appeal of 1961 becomes the first organization in the WWF.
  • In 1973, the WWF hires its first scientist as a project administrator. The job goes to Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy.
  • WWF gives a $38,000 grant to the Smithsonian Institution to study the tiger population.

The 1980s

This was a period of growth and expansion.

  • With help from WWF, the World Conservation Strategy is published in 1980.
  • A 3,700 acre farm in Columbia, Finca La Planada, becomes a nature reserve in 1983.
  • The Primate Action Fund is established this same year.
  • Also in 1983, an African program is created, further strengthening the group's ability to help projects in this region of the world.

The 1990s

this era was characterized by activism and stewardship of natural resources.

  • In 1990, WWF continues to work to stop bird trading.
  • The year 1991 brought the opening of an Eastern and Southern Africa office.
  • The Forest Stewardship Council is established in 1993

The 2000s and Beyond

The fund maintains an ongoing mission of stewardship for the planet's resources.

Decades of Achievement

This is just the short list of achievements the WWF has made over the years to keep conservation up and give wildlife a fighting chance at survival. With the organization's help and ability to equip others, the complete record of advancements made in all areas of environmentalism is long and varied.

How to Help

The WWF accepts help in many forms from volunteerism, fundraising, community based leadership roles, donations, animal adoptions, and much more. To see how you can contribute, go to WWF's fundraising website.

The World Wildlife Fund

The WWF is an organization that has helped countless animals and their natural habitats. Much of the environmental conservation that occurs today is due to the efforts of the World Wildlife Fund. This organization has a rich history that has allowed it to do the work it does today.

World Wildlife Fund History