23 Feb 2022


Today we congratulate a passionate member of the WWF Legacy Community.

Professor Ross Jeffree was recently appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to conservation and the environment. Ross also had a hand in the establishment of the Australian branch of WWF as a young zoology graduate in the early 70s.

Below, Ross shares what motivates his support of organisations like WWF, and what led him to dedicate his life’s work to the environment.

I have been a long-term supporter of WWF as the international flagship of conservation; in fact, as a young zoology graduate in the early 70s, I wrote to WWF in Switzerland asking them to please set up in Australia to support wildlife conservation here and in Southeast Asia. I was invited to the first meeting in Sydney with such Australian conservation heroes as Vincent Serventy, when the famous Maurice Strong and Charles de Haas visited to establish WWF in Australia in 1978.

I remember that as a 16-year-old, my interest and subsequent commitment to a life in conservation and biology were first stirred by two books: ‘Serengeti Shall not Die’ by Bernard Grzimek and ‘On the Origin of Species’ by Charles Darwin. 

Reef manta ray (Mobula alfredi). Manta rays feeding on reef fish spawn in Guam, US Territory
© Simon Lorenz / WWF HK

I have been privileged in work and travels to have had many special experiences in nature and encounters with wildlife.

Some highlights include weeks and weeks of fish biodiversity fieldwork during the build-up to the wet season in the Northern Territory (‘going troppo’ season) under the watchful gazes of estuarine crocodiles; coming face-to-face with both an Indo-Gangetic Dolphin and Indian One-Horned Rhino across a small lagoon of the Brahmaputra River in India; and swimming eye-to-eye with a Manta Ray in the Komodo National Park, Indonesia.

Such familiarities built my respect both for their independent existences and rights to the continuity of their evolutionary lineages. 

I choose to support WWF because it has a very authoritative and commanding voice at the tables where high-level government decisions are made that can support biodiversity; and their policies are consistently backed by the best national and international consensus conservation science. Also, WWF has a longevity beyond any one charismatic person. 

Choosing to support conservation groups is also one important component in an eco-ethical lifestyle which needs to also include more plant-based foods, reduced superfluous purchases to block the juggernaut of consumer capitalism that is relentlessly ‘digesting’ nature, and active advocacy on behalf of all those species ‘without a voice’. 

Ross Jeffree at Georges River National Park
© Sophie Hueppauff / WWF

Why should people care about nature?

Apart from a self-interest in maintaining the ecosystems that supply us with clean air, water, soil, pollination etc., there are deeper reasons that speak to our humanity. All life on Earth is the end-product of selection processes – in a Universe that is indifferent to our collective suffering. But we are not indifferent to each other’s suffering, by virtue of human qualities of compassion. By cultivating generosity to other life forms we also diminish our own self obsessions and hence reduce our own sufferings.

Professor Ross Jeffree AM has made significant contributions to the environment and conservation throughout his career. He is the author of more than 160 scientific publications. He has helped to inform international governments of the effects of climate change on the ocean. He created training programs in conservation for scientists in developing countries. He is even responsible for the banning of leadshot, following his discovery that crocodiles in the Kakadu were being contaminated after eating shot magpie geese. 

We are proud and honoured to thank Ross, as one among a community of wonderful supporters, all of whom contribute to a future where humans live in harmony with nature. Ross intends to continue to serve the environment well into the future and has included a gift in his Will to WWF-Australia. You can make nature a part of your legacy too.