WWF International Director Generals 1962-present

MARCO LAMBERTINI

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Richard Stonehouse
Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International
© WWF-Canon / Richard Stonehouse
2014 -
Marco Lambertini became Director General of WWF International in April 2014, to drive the achievement of the global conservation organization’s critical mission to save life on Earth and to lead the secretariat team based in Gland, Switzerland.

With 35 years of conservation leadership, Marco Lambertini began his association with WWF as a youth volunteer growing up in his native Italy. Prior to joining WWF, he served as Chief Executive of BirdLife International. That role saw him broaden BirdLife’s global reach and relevance, and develop decentralized structures for most effective global conservation impact. He managed a highly decentralized secretariat, overseeing a global partnership of over 120 civil society organizations based in countries and territories in all continents.

Marco Lambertini has a degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the University of Pisa, and has published books ranging from Safari in Africa (Muzzio) to A naturalist’s guide to the Tropics (Chicago University Press).

Highlights from among Marco’s top conservation achievements so far include:
  • Large-scale changes of attitudes and practices regarding nature and wildlife in Italy;
  • The establishment of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, the largest marine protected area in Europe; and
  • The Harapan Rainforest initiative in Sumatra, the world’s first forest restoration concession.

James P Leape

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Jean-Luc RAY
WWF International Director General Jim Leape
© WWF-Canon / Jean-Luc RAY
2005-2014
Jim has worked in conservation for more than 3 decades.

A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Jim began his career as an environmental lawyer - bringing environmental protection cases in the United States, advising the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi, Kenya, and co-authoring the leading American text on environmental law.

Jim first joined WWF in the US in 1989, and for 10 years led their conservation programmes around the world, serving as Executive Vice President. In that role, he helped shape the global strategy of the WWF Network and represented WWF in many international fora.

From 2001 to 2005, he directed the conservation and science initiatives of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, one of the largest philanthropies in the US.

Dr Claude Martin

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Hansruedi Wirz
Dr Claude Martin, Director General, WWF International, Gland, Switzerland.
© WWF-Canon / Hansruedi Wirz
1993-2005
A Swiss national, Claude Martin was born in Zurich in 1945. His WWF career started in the early 1970s, when he lived in Central India studying the ecology of the threatened barasingha deer in Kanha National Park. From 1975 to 1978 he served as director of several protected areas in the Western Region of Ghana, before becoming director of WWF-Switzerland in 1980. Under his leadership, WWF-Switzerland emerged as one of the strongest of the National Organizations within the WWF Network.

Claude Martin joined WWF International in 1990 as Deputy Director General (Programme). Three years later, in 1993, he was appointed Director General of WWF International. Since then, he has initiated several new approaches in conservation, such as the Target Driven Programmes, as well as partnerships, for example with the World Bank and business/industry groups. He is a member of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED) – a high level advisory body to the Chinese Government – as well as a board member of numerous other environmental bodies.

[Interview, 2005]

Charles de Haes

Portrait / ©: WWF-Canon / WWF Intl.
Charles de Haes , Director General, WWF International. 1975-1993
© WWF-Canon / WWF Intl.
1975-1993
An economist and a lawyer, Charles de Haes was born in Antwerp in 1938. He first became involved in WWF in the early 1970s when asked by International Trustee Anton Rupert to help create “The 1001: A Nature Trust”. Through this, HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands – WWF founder President – and one thousand other influential individuals agreed to each contribute US$10,000 to WWF. This was designed with a view to achieving financial independence for the secretariat.

From 1975, Charles de Haes went on to serve 18 years as Director General, including two and a half years as Joint Director General with his predecessor, Fritz Vollmar. During this time, he helped initiate international fundraising and awareness campaigns, and further develop the WWF network through initiatives such as the partnership with IUCN and UNEP in the World Conservation Strategy, which links conservation and development.

Dr Fritz Vollmar

Fritz Vollmar standing on a mountain side. / ©: WWF / Fritz Vollmar
Dr Fritz Vollmar, Director General WWF International 1962-1978
© WWF / Fritz Vollmar
1962-1978
Born in 1926 in Lenzburg, Switzerland, Fritz Vollmar studied economics, political science and business administration. Prior to joining WWF, he worked as a journalist in industry, held a senior position with the International Committee of the Red Cross, before moving into business and university administration.

In 1962, Fritz Vollmar became the first Secretary General of what was then known as the World Wildlife Fund. During this time, he was responsible for establishing an international secretariat and building up the network of fund-raising national organizations from the “founder members” (Switzerland, UK and USA).

At the time of its 10th anniversary in 1971, WWF had set up 16 national organizations and financed 550 projects in 59 countries. Fritz Vollmar was then appointed to the new post of Director General and served with the organization until he retired in 1978.

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