In 1961, the World Wildlife Fund was founded as an international organization in Switzerland. As its focus widened over the decades from wildlife to the environment as a whole, the international name changed in 1986 to WWF – the World Wide Fund for Nature (although Canada and the US retained the old name). This more accurately speaks to WWF’s vast spectrum of work as well as reflecting the interdependence of all living things. Today, WWF is one of the world’s most recognisable and respected independent conservation organisations.
The Southern African Wildlife Foundation was established on 14 June 1968, later becoming the Southern African Nature Foundation, and in 1995 renamed to WWF South Africa. Since its founding, WWF South Africa has been dedicated to protecting South Africa’s natural heritage. It forms part of a network of over 100 WWF offices around the world, and in 2018, Africa celebrates 50 years of environmental achievements and impact.
From water security to environmental leadership, WWF South Africa has been at the forefront of identifying, scoping and implementing catalytic solutions to some of South Africa’s most pressing problems.
Some of WWF South Africa’s most significant achievements include:
Places of wonder – WWF invests in securing areas of environmental relevance. The Langebaan Lagoon was proclaimed as a marine reserve in 1973, and the Langebaan National Park was declared in 1985. In 1986, WWF set up the National Parks Trust to continue to contribute to South Africa’s network of protected areas. These parks are integral to the communities and creatures that rely on them.
Nature nurture – WWF works closely with commercial farmers, private landowners, and communities living on shared land to help them realise how nature looks after us if we look after nature. By working with traditional community leaders, WWF was part of the first biodiversity stewardship agreement signed with the 300-strong Mgundeni community in KwaZulu-Natal. Through its Conservation Champion programme, WWF also works with committed wine farms to encourage more sustainable wine production.
People hold the power – WWF has been investing in the development of people since the 1990s. From encouraging school kids to care about the environment through to empowering the country’s future leaders with the skills and confidence to tackle the complex issues of our time. WWF’s Graduate Internship Programme bridges the transition for Honours and Masters graduates from university to the workplace. To date, 128 young leaders have benefited from this structured year-long experience.
Small actions add up – There is great strength in unity. This has been proven time and again with WWF’s Earth Hour campaign which started in Sydney in 2007. Every year on the last Saturday in March, millions of people around the world switch off their lights for 60 minutes in global unity. In South Africa, WWF is actively calling for more renewable energy in the national energy mix.
Water connects us – We need it to survive, from our daily home use to how it powers industry. Yet we take it for granted. This is why WWF came up with the Journey of Water to illustrate the complex journey that water takes from catchment to tap. Since 2013, there have been three of these immersive walking adventures for select celebrities and journalists to reconnect urban water users with the true source of our fresh water – nature!
Our wild oceans – Lobbying for nature takes time and often happens without anyone knowing it. A 20-year vision was realised in 2013 with the declaration of South Africa’s first offshore marine protected area around the Prince Edward Islands. This area, which lies about 2 000 kilometres from our coast, is an important breeding ground for many species of seabirds, among them four species of albatross, and other forms of marine life.
Seafood security – In the early days of conservation in South Africa, in 1969, the first ocean-related project to be funded was the tagging of 200 000 loggerhead turtles on the east coast. In recent years, WWF has been driving change across the seafood industry and empowering consumers to make sustainable seafood choices through WWF-SASSI’s simple red, orange and green traffic light system!
Iconic species – WWF has been involved with conserving the iconic and endangered African rhino – both black and white – since the 1980s. In 2003, before the devastating poaching crisis took hold, WWF established a breeding programme for the critically endangered black rhino. To date, 11 new populations have been established to expand the areas where rhino have adequate space to live and breed, with more than 90 surviving black rhino calves born on project sites.
Great vision – The 1990s were a positive turning point for South Africa. As the rainbow nation was taking shape, so too were two visionary WWF-led trusts that have enabled incredible environmental and social success over the decades. In 1990, the WWF Nedbank Green Trust was established to catalyse community-level conservation initiatives. In 1995, a generous legacy donation launched the Leslie Hill Succulent Karoo Trust to conserve highly threatened ‘’vetplante’’ in the biodiversity hotspot of the Succulent Karoo. In addition, WWF had the foresight in 1993 to raise start-up capital for the Table Mountain Fund which has helped to secure the biodiversity of this international icon for posterity.
Thought leadership – From leadership in our daily lives and how we engage with the world, WWF helps people to see and feel our connection with nature as well as provides inspired expert opinion on topics that matter. Each year, through the Living Planet Conference, WWF brings together future leaders and industry influencers in business, politics, science and the arts to debate and share practical steps for our unprecedented challenges ahead.
WWF South Africa continues to catalyse strategic initiatives where there is the greatest need to restore balance, reduce impact and protect the country’s vital resources and natural biodiversity.
Click here to make a donation to WWF South Africa.
This is the forty-seventh NGO profile of my 2018 #NGOs4Africa Campaign.