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From the very beginning, WWF has been aware that people donate money to the organization because they want to give direct support to conservation.

A WWF International delegation to China, visiting the Beijing zoo at the invitation of the ... rel= © WWF Intl. / WWF

In 1970, HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, then President of WWF International, launched an important initiative that was to provide WWF with the solid, independent financial base it needed.

The organization set up a US$10 million fund, known as The 1001: A Nature Trust, to which 1,001 individuals each contributed US$10,000. Since establishing The 1001, WWF International has been able to use interest from the trust fund to help meet its basic administration costs.

So when WWF helped the Indian government launch Project Tiger in 1973, the public was assured that its donations would go towards saving India's charismatic, but severely endangered, tigers. Mrs Indira Gandhi set up a task force to carry out a comprehensive six-year tiger conservation plan and the government put aside land for nine tiger reserves. India later added six more reserves. Nepal followed suit with three, and Bangladesh with one.

Two years later, WWF embarked on its first worldwide Tropical Rainforest Campaign, raising money and arranging for several dozen representative tropical rainforest areas in Central and West Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America, to be managed as national parks or reserves.

Forest conservation has been an important WWF focus ever since. The organization's Forest Programme now supports 350 projects all over the world, in an effort to conserve not only tropical rainforests but also the forests of the temperate zones.

The 1970s were an exciting and active time. The launch of an ambitious marine campaign, "The Seas Must Live", in 1976, enabled WWF to set up marine sanctuaries for whales, dolphins, and seals, and to protect marine turtle nesting sites. The decade drew to a close with a campaign to "Save the Rhino", which rapidly raised over US$1 million to combat rhino poaching.

Meanwhile, concerned that trade in animals, plants, and commodities such as ivory and rhino horn was driving many species towards extinction, IUCN had created a body to monitor trade in wildlife and wildlife products. The new organization, known as TRAFFIC (Trade Records Analysis of Fauna and Flora in Commerce) opened its first office in the United Kingdom in 1976. With WWF's help, TRAFFIC has now grown into a network of 17 offices on five continents, and has played a major role in persuading governments all over the world to increase species protection and strengthen wildlife trade controls.

All this activity meant that WWF had long outgrown its villa in Morges, and desperately needed new premises. In 1979, the accommodation problem was solved by an anonymous donation that enabled the organization to move to a modern office block in Gland, along the lake, halfway between Geneva and Lausanne.
Porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus) Nova Scotia, Canada

© /Doug Perrine / WWF

Two Siberian tigers (Panthera tigris altaica)

© /Edwin Giesbers / WWF

African elephant (Loxodonta africana), Tanzania.

© /Edwin Giesbers / WWF

WWF was born into this world in 1961. 
WWF was born into this world in 1961.

The story so far...

From its origins as a small group of committed wildlife enthusiasts, WWF has grown into one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations – supported by 5 million people and active in over 100 countries on five continents.

Over this time, WWF's focus has evolved from localized efforts in favour of single species and individual habitats to an ambitious strategy to preserve biodiversity and achieve sustainable development across the globe.

Read some of the stories of our big wins over the past 50 years...