Who we are | WWF South Africa

Who we are

WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organisations, with almost 6 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries.
Our mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

WWF South Africa

WWF South Africa is a national office that is part of the WWF network. We are a local NGO that for more than 40 years has worked towards the aim of inspiring all South Africans to live in harmony with nature, for the benefit of our country and the well-being of all our people.

At WWF-SA we work to inspire and empower all South Africans, from school children and local community leaders to consumers and CEOs, to value, respect and defend the integrity of the natural ecosystems that underpin the sustainable development of our country.

South Africa's natural resources - such as freshwater, arable land, clean air, plants and animals - are finite. As a nation we have to protect these resources to ensure ongoing food security, human health and overall economic prosperity.

To achieve the above, WWF-SA aims to:

  • Secure the integrity of South Africa's ecological assets (habitats, ecosystems and endangered species)
  • Ensure that natural ecosystems and their services underpin social and economic well-being
  • Play a leading role among developing countries in addressing the risks and opportunities associated with climate change

WWF aims to address the underlying economic, social and political issues that underpin all conservation efforts. We involve local communities in decision-making, we lobby government to change policy and we work with business to ensure sustainable use of resources.


Biodiversity: By 2050, the integrity of the most outstanding natural places on earth is conserved, contributing to a more secure and sustainable future for all.

Footprint: By 2050, humanity’s global ecological footprint stays within the earth’s capacity to sustain life, and the natural resources of our planet are equitably shared.

Cover of the WWF South Africa Integrated Annual Report 2015

WWF's guiding principles

To guide us in our task of achieving this mission, we have adopted the following principles. WWF will:
  • be global, independent, multicultural and non party political
  • use the best available scientific information to address issues and critically evaluate all its endeavours
  • seek dialogue and avoid unnecessary confrontation
  • build concrete conservation solutions through a combination of field based projects, policy initiatives, capacity building and education work
  • involve local communities and people in the planning and execution of its field programmes, respecting their cultural as well as economic needs
  • strive to build partnerships with other organisations, governments, business and local communities to enhance WWF’s effectiveness
  • run its operations in a cost effective manner and apply donors’ funds according to the highest standards of accountability.
Cover of the August 2015 Panda Bulletin

Our History

WWF was established internationally in 1961.
It was the product of a deep concern held by a few eminent people who were worried by our impact on the natural world.

WWF South Africa was founded in 1968 and was then known as the Southern African Nature Foundation with its main focus to conserve African wildlife.

Since those early days WWF has grown up to be one of the largest environmental organisations in the world. Today WWF deals with a range of environmental issues from preventing the loss of species, protecting important ecoregions and biodiversity hotspots and conserving water to the management of our marine resources and promoting sustainability practices within businesses.

Currently there are more than 1300 WWF conservation projects underway around the world.

The vast majority of these focus on local issues. They range from vegetable gardens, to initiatives to protect life in the ocean, from the rehabilitation of wetlands to ensure freshwater to the establishment of reserves for endangered animals.

Almost all our work involves

We team up with local non-profit agencies and other global NGOs. We form relationships with village elders, local municipalities and regional government offices. And in this age of globalisation, critically, we work with businesses who are willing to change.

But our most important partnership is with you.

Your support means we have the necessary strength to engage with national governments and global agencies like the World Bank. Your support means we have the network to reach out to communities and people in all parts of the world.  

Your support means we can have real successes and lasting breakthrough in the conservation efforts for our one and only planet.

So who is WWF?


We are nothing without you.

What is in a name?

In 1961 when the organisation was founded, WWF stood for the "World Wildlife Fund". However, in 1986 WWF changed its name to World Wide Fund for Nature to reflect its greater focus on the conservation of the natural environment as a whole – beyond a sole focus on protecting endangered wildlife. WWF now works to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.
(WWF is still known as the World Wildlife Fund in the United States of America and in Canada).

More and more, however, to avoid confusion and mixed messages across borders and languages, we are simply WWF.

Our World famous logo

The organisation's logo is based on sketches of Chi-Chi the panda by naturalist Gerald Watterson. Chi-Chi was a well-known resident of the London Zoo in the sixties. The panda was chosen as the subject of the logo because it is a strong, recognisable symbol of conservation, being such an endangered species, and is a very appealing animal with its black-patched eyes. The panda logo is now universally recognised as a symbol for conservation.

	© WWF
Panda evolution