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Our history

We are WWF. The World Wide Fund for Nature.

© Hougaard Malan / WWF-SA

Founded in 1961 in Switzerland, WWF is one of the world’s most recognisable and respected independent conservation organisations.


In 1961, a broad call for support was signed by 16 of the world’s leading conservationists. It was called the Morges Manifesto. This manifesto stated that while the expertise to protect the world environment existed, the financial support to achieve this protection did not.

From this, the decision was made to establish the World Wildlife Fund as an international fundraising organisation. The intention was to work in collaboration with existing conservation groups and bring financial support to the worldwide conservation movement.

As the World Wildlife Fund grew in the 70s and 80s, it began to expand its work to conserve the environment as a whole. This reflected the interdependence of all living things, rather than focusing on select species in isolation. 

Did you know?

While continuing to use its well-known acronym, WWF's name changed in 1986 from the World Wildlife Fund to the World Wide Fund for Nature.

WWF South Africa

In 1968, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands (then president of the World Wildlife Fund) approached Dr Anton Rupert (a successful South African businessman and conservationist) to work towards securing South Africa’s wildlife and nature.

Dr Rupert garnered support from a group of local business aficionados. They realised that something had to be done quickly if South Africa’s biodiversity - its plants and animals and the ecosystems they live in - were to be conserved.

The Southern African Wildlife Foundation was formed in 1968, later becoming the Southern African Nature Foundation and in 1995 renamed to WWF South Africa.

Since its founding, WWF has been dedicated to protecting South Africa’s natural heritage. This includes plant and animal species, and people. 

In 2018, WWF South Africa celebrates 50 years of environmental achievements and impact.


WWF’s mission is to champion the earth's capacity to provide a source of inspiration, sustainable food, water and clean energy for all.

Amidst decreasing species and wild spaces, increasing natural disasters and frequent extreme weather events, we need hope more than ever. We are working towards a future with food and fresh water for all, forever! A future of well being and hope. For nature. For you.

The time to inspire positive change – to change our future – is now!

Join us

“We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.” – Nelson Mandela

© WWF-SA / Eitan Prince