The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is an international non-governmental organization working on issues regarding the conservation, research and restoration of the environment, formerly named the World Wildlife Fund, which remains its official name in Canada and the United States. It is the world’s largest independent conservation organization with over 5 million supporters worldwide, working in more than 100 countries, supporting around 1,300 conservation and environmental projects. WWF is a foundation, in 2010 deriving 57% of funding from individuals and bequests, 17% from government sources (such as the World Bank, DFID, USAID) and 11% from corporations.
The group says its mission is “to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.” Currently, much of its work focuses on the conservation of three biomes that contain most of the world’s biodiversity: oceans and coasts, forests, and freshwater ecosystems. Among other issues, it is also concerned with endangered species, pollution and climate change.
The idea for a fund on behalf of endangered animals was initially proposed by Victor Stolan to Sir Julian Huxley in response to articles he published in the British newspaper The Observer. This proposal led Huxley to put Stolan in contact with Max Nicholson, a person who had thirty years experience of linking progressive intellectuals with big business interests through the Political and Economic Planning think tank.
Nicholson thought up the name of the organization. WWF was conceived on 29 April 1961, under the name of World Wildlife Fund, and its first office was opened on 11 September that same year in Morges, Switzerland. Godfrey A. Rockefeller also played an important role in its creation, assembling the first staff. Its establishment marked with the signing of the founding document called Morges Manifesto that lays out the formulation ideas of its establishment.
WWF has set up offices and operations around the world. It originally worked by fundraising and providing grants to existing non-governmental organizations, based on the best-available scientific knowledge and with an initial focus on the protection of endangered species. As more resources became available, its operations expanded into other areas such as the preservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of natural resources, the reduction of pollution, and climate change. The organization also began to run its own conservation projects and campaigns, and by the 1980s started to take a more strategic approach to its conservation activities.
In the 1990s, WWF revised its mission to: “Stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by:
• conserving the world’s biological diversity
• ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable
• promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.”
WWF scientists and many others identified 238 ecoregions that represent the world’s most biologically outstanding terrestrial,freshwater and marine habitats, based on a worldwide biodiversity analysis which the organization says was the first of its kind. In the early 2000s (decade), its work was focused on a subset of these ecoregions, in the areas of forest, freshwater and marine habitat conservation, endangered species conservation, climate change, and the elimination of the most toxic chemicals.
The Giant Panda mascot of WWF originated from a panda named Chi Chi that was transferred from the Beijing Zoo to the London Zoo in the same year of the establishment of WWF. As the only giant panda residing in the Western world at that time, along with its physical features and status as an endangered species, panda is seen to serve the need of a strong recognizable symbol of the organization. Moreover, the organization also needs an animal that would have an impact in black and white printing. The logo was then designed by Sir Peter Scott from the preliminary sketches made by a Scottish naturalist, Gerald Watterson.
WWF’s current strategy for achieving its mission specifically focuses on restoring populations of 36 species (species or species groups that are important for their ecosystem or to people, including elephants, tunas, whales, dolphins and porpoises), and ecological footprint in 6 areas (carbon emissions, cropland, grazing land, fishing, forestry and water).
The organization also works on a number of global issues driving biodiversity loss and unsustainable use of natural resources, including finance, business practices, laws, and consumption choices. Local offices also work on national or regional issues. WWF works with a large number of different groups to achieve its goals, including other NGOs, governments, business, investment banks, scientists, fishermen, farmers and local communities. It also undertakes public campaigns to influence decision makers, and seeks to educate people on how to live in a more environmentally friendly manner.It urges people to donate funds to protect the environment. The donors can also choose to receive gifts in return.