What Is the World Wildlife Fund?

The giant panda is the WWF flagship species.
Photo © Jay Schipper / Getty Images.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is a global-scale conservation organization that works in 100 countries and consists of nearly 5 million members worldwide. The WWF's mission—in the simplest of terms—is to conserve nature. Its aims are threefold—to protect natural areas and wild populations, to minimize pollution, and to promote efficient, sustainable use of natural resources.

The WWF focuses their efforts at multiple levels, starting with wildlife, habitats and local communities and expanding up through governments and global networks. The WWF views the planet as a single, complex web of relationships between species, the environment, and human institutions such as government and global markets.


The World Wildlife Fund was established in 1961 when a handful of scientists, naturalists, politicians, and businessmen joined forces to form an international fundraising organization that would provide money for conservation groups working around the globe.

The WWF grew during the 1960s and by the 1970s it was able to hire its first project administrator, Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy, who immediately convened a meeting of experts to forge the organization's key priorities. Among the first projects to receive funding from the WWF was a study of the tiger population in Chitwan Sanctuary Nepal conducted by the Smithsonian Institution. In 1975, the WWF helped establish the Corcovado National Park on Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula. Then in 1976, the WWF joined forces with the IUCN to create TRAFFIC, a network that monitors wildlife trade to curtail any conservation threats such trade inevitably causes.

In 1984, Dr. Lovejoy devised the debt-for-nature swap approach that entails the conversion of a portion of a nation's debt into funding for conservation within the country. The debt-for-nature swap tactic is also used by The Nature Conservancy. In 1992, the WWF further funded conservation in developing nations by establishing conservation trust funds for high-priority conservation regions throughout the world. These funds are intended to provide long-term funding to sustain conservation efforts.

More recently, the WWF has worked with the Brazilian government to launch the Amazon Region Protected areas that will triple the land area that is protected within the Amazon region.

How They Spend Their Money

  • 79.4% of expenses go towards conservation projects
  • 7.3% of expenses go towards administration
  • 13.1% of expenses go towards fundraising



You can also find the WWF on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.


World Wildlife Fund
1250 24th Street, NW
P.O. Box 97180
Washington, DC 20090
tel: (800) 960-0993