World Wildlife Fund (now known as WWF) was conceived on 29 April 1961 in the small Swiss town of Morges and soon received the royal seal of approval.

It was a unique partnership of scientists, business and government leaders, with the support and guidance of HRH Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

The group called for urgent global action to stop vast numbers of wild animals being hunted out of existence and habitats from being destroyed.

Over the past 60 years, WWF has grown into the largest and most influential independent conservation organisation in the world. We have over five million supporters globally and we operate in more than 100 countries. On 29 June 1978, WWF was established in Australia, with just three staff working out of an old factory in Sydney.

The conservation budget for our first year of operation was around $80,000. Today, we're the nation's largest conservation organisation, with just under 1.3 million supporters and numerous projects underway throughout Australia and the Oceania region.

WWF Timeline


WWF (known then as World Wildlife Fund) was born in the small town of Morges, Switzerland, and registered as a charity in the UK. Peter Scott, WWF’s first chairman, designed the famous panda logo, inspired by a panda adopted by London Zoo named Chi-Chi.


WWF-Australia was established with a $50,000 grant from the Commonwealth Government and $20,500 in corporate donations.


A joint World Conservation Strategy, which recognised that conserving biodiversity is essential to sustainable development, was produced by WWF, the IUCN and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It was endorsed by the United Nations Secretary-General and launched in 34 world capitals.


World Wildlife Fund changed its name to World Wide Fund for Nature (except USA and Canada) to reflect the scope of its work.


WWF and the IUCN established TRAFFIC Oceania to monitor wildlife and help agencies in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific to curb the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products.


WWF-Australia formed the national Threatened Species Network with the Australian Government, which successfully operated until 2009. The network worked cooperatively with government and community groups to empower people to participate in all aspects of species conservation.


WWF-Australia and its partners achieved a 50-year moratorium on mining in Antarctica – one of the most significant conservation outcomes for this pristine environment.

Antartica whales aerial view


A joint initiative between WWF (known then as World Wide Fund For Nature) and Unilever saw the creation of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). In 1999, the MSC became an independently run non-profit organisation.


The first WWF Living Planet Report was published, showing human pressures on the planet and their impact on vertebrate animals.


WWF launched the largest privately-funded amphibian conservation program in Australian history, which became known as Frogs Australia. WWF-Australia played a major role in creating the world’s most far-reaching biodiversity conservation laws, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act of June 1999.


The Marine Debris Tracking Program was established in partnership with Aboriginal communities and Indigenous Sea Rangers to identify and combat the harm fishing and pollution causes to Australia’s marine life. WWF later established the National Marine Debris Database.


Due to confusion and translation discrepancies across more than 15 languages, the acronym WWF was adopted as our name globally. WWF brought together a consortium of partners to develop a plan to protect and manage the biodiversity of the entire Southwest Australia region, which is home to almost 7,000 species of plants, almost half which occur nowhere else.


WWF's influence in the Antarctic region led to the establishment of the 65,000 km² Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve.


WWF contributed to the Western Australian Government's rejection of a proposal to build a 2,000-bed resort and marina at Mauds Landing in the southern part of Ningaloo Marine Park.

After public campaigning and pressure from WWF, the Australian Government committed to raise protection for the Great Barrier Reef from 4.6% to 33%, offering relief from coral bleaching, sea floor trawling, overfishing and pollution. The findings of a WWF scientific study led the Queensland Parliament to pass legislation to phase out broadscale landclearing across the state and set a new benchmark for Australian land management.

Reef crest dominated by robust branching corals and coralline algae. Grazing surgeon fish and plankton eating humbug fish. Great Barrief Reef, Australia.
Reef crest dominated by robust branching corals and coralline algae. Grazing surgeon fish and plankton eating humbug fish. Great Barrief Reef, Australia. © WWF / James Morgan


WWF convened the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists to advise the Australian Government on best-practice water management for the next 100 years, resulting in the National Water Initiative (NWI). In partnership with conservation groups, governments and local communities, WWF increased the protection of Ningaloo Reef in sanctuary areas from 10% to 34%, making it one of the world’s best protected reefs.


After an 18-month WWF-Australia campaign, the Australian Government announced that more than 80% of Tasmania’s Tarkine region would be protected. This stopped State Government plans to log the Tarkine Rainforest Corridor at the heart of the wilderness area.


WWF-Australia secured a $24.6 million commitment from the federal and Tasmanian governments to eradicate the rats, mice and rabbits that were destroying the unique landscape and devastating populations of threatened seabirds on World Heritage-listed Macquarie Island. The island was finally declared pest free in 2014.

WWF co-created Earth Hour in Sydney. Almost 2.2 million Sydney-siders turned their lights off for one hour, taking a stand against climate change.

People gather for Earth Hour Night in Manly= 2014
© Briony Benjamin / WWF-Aus


WWF led the campaign to secure $180 million in Federal Government funding to expand the National Reserve System, Australia’s network of parks, reserves and other protected areas. WWF led the campaign that secured $223 million in Federal Government investment and $50 million from the Queensland Government to protect the Great Barrier Reef by changing farming practices and reducing farm pollution.


The 180,000 km² Prince Edward Islands Marine Protected Area, one of the five largest MPAs in the world, was established, following a WWF campaign to protect the Southern Ocean.


Funded by the state government and generous donations from WWF supporters, a 5-kilometre fence was built around Nangeen Hill Nature Reserve in WA to protect the dwindling black-flanked rock-wallaby population.


With our Indigenous partners, WWF saved more than 1,000 baby turtles from predation in Queensland and rediscovered the spectacled hare wallaby in the Kimberley.


WWF campaigning secured a ban on dumping in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, preventing up to 46 million cubic metres of dredge spoil being dumped in the Reef’s waters.


The collective effort of WWF and other organisations saw the largest marine protected area in the world finally secured in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica. With funds from supporters WWF-Australia bought and retired two shark fishing licences on the Great Barrier Reef, saving the lives of about 20,000 sharks a year as well as dugongs, dolphins and turtles.


WWF-Australia fought for new laws to be passed in Queensland parliament that would stop excessive tree-clearing and protect koalas, other native species and the Great Barrier Reef. In 2018 the new laws were successfully passed.


As part of the Net-Free North campaign the last commercial gill net in Far North Qld was purchased and removed by WWF, thanks to public donations. Retiring the huge, deadly net meant protection for dugongs, marine turtles, snubfin dolphins, sawfish, and hammerhead and Bizant River sharks. WWF-Australia, in partnership with Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, completes one of Australia’s most successful conservation projects - the translocation and reintroduction of threatened black-flanked rock-wallabies to Kalbarri National Park in WA

Black-flanked rock-wallaby in the Kellerberrin
Black-flanked rock-wallaby in the Kellerberrin © Phil Lewis and Mike Griffiths / WWF-Aus