World Wildlife Fund Celebrates 50th Birthday

The World Wildlife Fund, a conservation organization devoted to protecting nature while promoting environmentally-friendly habits, turned 50 on April 29th. The group was founded to raise awareness of environmental issues and to raise funds to preserve wildlife. The organization strives to preserve the Earth’s wildlife by “protecting natural areas and wild populations of plants and animals…promoting sustainable approaches to the use of renewable natural resources, and promoting more efficient use of resources and energy and the maximum reduction of pollution.”

The organization was founded in 1961 by a group of sixteen scientists and naturalists lead by biologist Sir John Huxley. Huxley was inspired to bring attention to conservation efforts when he witnessed habitat destruction and the hunting of endangered species during a trip to Africa. The WWF’s call to action stated that while “the expertise to protect the environment existed, the financial support to achieve this protection did not.” The WWF was then founded to provide fundraising in order to raise financial support for the conservation movement. Less than five months after the group was founded, the first WWF office opened at the IUCN headquarters in Morges, Switzerland on September 11, 1961. Within three years of the group’s inception, $1.9 million was raised and donated to various environmental conservation causes.

Today, the World Wildlife Fund works in over 100 countries and boasts almost 5 million members around the world. In the fifty years since it was founded, the WWF has been an active part of wildlife conservation around the world. Among the WWF’s achievements:

-Establishing the Marine Stewardship Council in 1997, a non-profit organization that designates sustainable fisheries. The MSC also helps consumers choose which fish to consume/avoid based on the sustainability of the population.

-Organizing Earth Hour starting in 2007, a global event that raises awareness about global warming by encouraging people to turn off lights and appliances for one hour.

-Raising over $1 million to fight against rhino poaching starting in 1979. The rhino population in India, Nepal, and southern Africa are slowly being replenished due to the decrease in poaching.

-Conceiving the idea of debt-for-nature swaps in 1984, which are government transactions that forgive part of a developing country’s foreign debt if they invest in conservation efforts.

-Developed Project Tiger in 1973, which set aside land for nine tiger reserves in India. Later, six more reserves were created, in addition to three in Nepal and one in Bangladesh.

-Published the World Conservation Strategy in 1980, which outline the three main goals of conservation: maintenance of ecological processes, preservation of diversity, and sustainable use of ecosystems and the species that inhabit them.

-Raising money for the Tropical Rainforest Campaign starting in 1975. The group also arranged for areas of rainforest in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to be preserved as national parks or reserves.

Currently, the WWF is focused on restoring 36 species of animal populations, preserving 35 ecosystems worldwide, and reducing the human carbon footprint in six areas around the world. To learn more about the World Wildlife Fund and find ways to get involved, visit the group’s Conservation Action Network website.

Photo Credit: hollister.ca.gov

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