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A brief history of WWF

Panda logo evolution

On 29 April 1961, in the small town of Morges in Switzerland, a group of eminent people made a commitment to the natural world. They called for urgent worldwide action to stop vast numbers of wild animals being hunted out of existence and habitats destroyed.

The 'Morges Manifesto' became the blueprint for the first global green organisation – the World Wildlife Fund (now called simply WWF). The far-sighted founders included the respected biologist Julian Huxley and renowned ornithologist and painter Peter Scott, who also designed the original and now world-famous WWF panda logo. Others signatories came from Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland and the US.

The organisation's international secretariat was established in Switzerland in September, and national WWF offices were gradually set up across the world, starting with the UK in November 1961.

By the end of the 1970s, the focus of WWF's work had broadened to encompass not only the conservation of wildlife and habitats, but also the wider implications of man's activities on the environment.

In 1980 WWF's World Conservation Strategy warned that humanity had no future unless nature and the world's natural resources were conserved. It also introduced the concept of sustainable development - living within the limits of the natural environment without compromising the needs of future generations - which has been central to WWF's thinking ever since.

For a living planet
WWF has grown from modest beginnings into a truly global conservation organisation that has been instrumental in making the environment a matter of world concern. In addition to funding and managing countless conservation projects throughout the world, WWF continues to lobby governments and policy-makers, conduct research, influence education systems, and work with business and industry to address global threats to the planet by seeking long-term solutions.

For a more detailed history of WWF, visit the WWF International website:

WWF Landmark dates

1961: WWF is founded, and is registered as a charity in Switzerland. WWF-UK is launched and Peter Scott designs a simple black and white logo so that it can be copied easily.

1972: WWF launches Operation Tiger, which a year later runs parallel with the Indian government's Project Tiger - a plan to set up nine national parks as tiger reserves.

1975: WWF pioneers its first tropical rainforest campaign. As a result, dozens of forests in Africa, South-east Asia and Latin America are managed as national parks or reserves.

1975: WWF helps bring into force the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES. This leads, the following year, to the formation of the wildlife monitoring body TRAFFIC - which has since, with WWF's help, played a major role in persuading governments all over the world to increase species protection and strengthen wildlife trade controls.

1976: WWF launches its first marine programme, leading to protection for marine turtle nesting sites and the establishment of sanctuaries for whales, dolphins and seals.

1979: WWF launches a fund to establish the Wolong nature reserve in China for the preservation of pandas, following a visit to China by Sir Peter Scott.

1980: WWF, the World Conservation Union and UNEP (the United Nations Environmental Programme) launch The World Conservation Strategy, which promotes sustainable development - the concept of living within the limits of the natural environment - for the first time.

1991: WWF, the World Conservation Union and UNEP launch Caring for the Earth - a strategy for sustainable living in 60 countries. It lists 132 actions people at all social and political levels can take to safeguard or improve their environment.

1991: WWF launches the 1995 Group of companies dedicated to using timber products that come only from credibly certified, well-managed forests. (In 1995 the name is changed to the WWF 95+ Group.) By the end of 2003 the Group had grown to 60 organisations.

1992: A WWF team led by Dr John McKinnon discovers a new species of large mammal - the Sao la or Vu Quang ox - in Vietnam.

1998: WWF and the World Bank form an alliance to set up a worldwide network of protected areas, including 200 million hectares of well-managed forests by 2005.

1999: WWF plays a key role in ensuring that sustainable development is an important part of the new National Curriculum in England.

2001: WWF celebrates the birth of the 1,000th golden lion tamarin in the wild. From a low of 200 animals recorded in Brazil in the early 1970s, the species has recovered to reach this historic milestone - its highest point in 30 years.

2001: WWF and the Romanian government instigate a summit at which 14 countries with interests in the River Danube and Carpathian Mountains agree on an environmental strategy which goes beyond political borders. The plan embraces environmental conservation, restoration and sustainable development throughout the Danube-Carpathian region.

2002: WWF and HSBC embark on a five-year partnership to protect freshwater habitats in the UK, Brazil, China and along the US/Mexico border. HSBC's £12.7 million investment in the partnership is the largest corporate donation received by WWF-UK.

2003: WWF's Wildlife Trade campaign convinces the UK government to amend the Criminal Justice Bill, thereby making illegal trade in endangered animals and their body parts an arrestable offence in the UK.

2003: The WWF 95+ Group is re-launched as the WWF-UK Forest & Trade Network.

2004: WWF and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) agree to develop a model for managing land owned by religious organisations throughout the world.

2006: WWF launches its Heart of Borneo programme as the three Bornean governments - Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia - declare their commitment to preserve one of the most important centres of biological diversity in the world, including some 220,000sq km of equatorial forests and numerous wildlife species.

2007: WWF’s One Million Sustainable Homes campaign ends in success when the UK government announces it will introduce a national code which measures nine categories of sustainable design, including energy, water and waste. From 1 May 2008, every new-built home must be rated according to this code.

2008: The UK government introduces the first legislation in the world aimed at setting binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This follows a year of lobbying and campaigning by WWF and our partners in Stop Climate Chaos − a coalition of some 60 environmental, development and faith-based organisations.

2009: WWF launches its first global Earth Hour – an annual event calling on world leaders to take urgent action on climate change. For one hour on 28 March, iconic landmarks across the world, including the Sydney Opera House, the Acropolis, the Pyramids, Big Ben and the Empire State Building, are plunged into darkness.

2011: WWF celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Establishment of the

Public meeting at The Royal Society of Arts in London, on the 26th of September 1961 to announce the establishment of the Fund: "World Wildlife Fund". Left to right: Professor J.G. Baer (IUCN President), Sir Peter Scott (Vice-President of IUCN). the Marquess of Willingdon, Lord Hurcomb, and Sir Julian Huxley (the first Director-General of UNESCO) . The World Wildife Charter was read and adopted on this occasion.

HRH Prince Philip and Sir Peter Scott 1967 © WWF-Canon /  WWF Intl.

HRH Prince Philip and Sir Peter Scott at WWF International Headquarters in 1967, Les Uttins, Morges, Switzerland

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