19 June 2018


A passion for the environment can often be traced back to childhood - a secret place, a chance encounter, a moment forever imprinted on an impressionable young mind. And so it was for long-time WWF supporter John Mooney, who credits a book his mother read to him as a child for sparking his enduring love of nature.

"It was a book about bears that lived in the forest," John remembers, "and the forest got cut down and the bears were displaced, and I thought that was rotten and wrong. I must have been about five; it goes that far back."

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s a youthful David Attenborough fuelled young John's interest in the wider world through his television nature documentaries Zoo Quest - adventurous black-and-white tales of a London Zoo team travelling to exotic places in search of exotic animals. On the home front, Harry Butler (an Australian naturalist and environmental consultant) captivated John with more familiar sites and species through his In the Wild television series.

He's been to some exotic locations himself since then - the foothills of the Himalayas, the Galapagos Islands, the rainforests of the Amazon.

John Mooney
© WWF-Aus / Four Leg Films

"I've always been captivated by Australia's forests," he says. "My favourite places are the forests of the Errinundra Plateau in Victoria's Gippsland, the Tarkine in northwest Tasmania, the warm temperate rainforests of northeast NSW, and, of course, the Daintree in far northern Queensland. The Australian forests are extraordinary - the monumental size of the large eucalypts when they’re given the chance to grow 300 or 400 years to maturity. You don't always see much wildlife in these forests, but you know it's there."

When he was in a position to help protect such special Australian landscapes, back in the 1980s, John chose WWF-Australia as one of his key beneficiaries. He has since made regular donations, supported individual WWF campaigns, contributed to countless research projects and served as a valued WWF Governor. "I like WWF's science-based approach, and the fact that conservation efforts are integrated into global initiatives," he says. "In an era when governments can be inert, WWF works directly with industry and communities to get results."

Sunlight illuminating coral= Great Barrier Reef
© Troy Mayne

John is particularly proud to have had a personal hand in efforts to protect the Great Barrier Reef. "The Reef is unique on a world scale, and although it's been a few years since I last snorkelled on it, the Reef is present in my mind all the time," he says. "But it's suffering a terrible hammering - from the impact of landclearing and associated run-off, overfishing and climate change - and I fear it won't last the century. I want to see it protected for everyone’s kids and grandkids, and WWF's successful campaigns to address run-off from farms and overfishing have shown how we can make a difference by working together."

WWF's global network is one of its major strengths, according to John. "Being part of an international organisation enables WWF to tackle challenges that affect us all," he says. "The technology to solve big problems like climate change exists now; it's just a matter of having the will to do something. Solutions come from a combined effort."

It also needs to be a sustained effort, which is why John and his wife will also leave WWF-Australia a donation in their wills. "I like the idea of our support carrying on in some way after we're gone," he says. "I don't think it's possible for one person to make a difference, unless you are Bill Gates, but a group effort can have impact. That's what WWF does - scales up our individual efforts and leverages the support of normal, ordinary people like me."

There's nothing ordinary about the support that John has lent WWF and our programs - support that now spans several decades. Our achievements during the past 40 years have only been possible thanks to the passion, dedication and generosity of like-minded individuals - people like John who care enough to invest in change. People for whom the alternative is unbearable.