28 Apr 2021
IN AT THE START: A LIFETIME OF SUPPORT
As WWF celebrates 60 years of conservation this year, David Waterhouse remembers first hearing of the “World Wildlife Fund” as WWF was then known. He became a supporter all those years ago and remains a supporter to this day. And he intends his support to continue through a gift in his Will.
I grew up in England. In early 1963, when I was a teenager, my family emigrated to Australia. I had a fascination for wildlife, especially mammals and birds from an early age. My interests were by no means confined to the local British fauna and I later spent some time in Africa, always on the lookout for wild things.
In 1961, the World Wildlife Fund was founded in the UK. In the following year, I found out about it by reading the small print in a sixpenny album designed for free coloured cards. These cards were brightly painted miniature gems portraying wildlife and given away by the Brooke Bond Tea Company in their tea packets.
Each summer, a new series of fifty cards were issued. You could only acquire a complete set by swapping duplicates or begging the cards from neighbouring housewives before they threw their empty tea packets into the bin.
The Brooke Bond Tea Company’s sixpenny album sparked a generation of support for WWF’s work, as well as a Legacy to the next generation and the future protection of the wildlife which fascinated a young David.
In the summer of 1962, a new series came out, entitled Asian Wildlife, portraying almost entirely mammals, including all the iconic species such as the Giant Panda, the Indian Rhino and the Bengal Tiger, as well as some most of us had never heard of.
It was difficult to find information on Asian wildlife, whose astonishing variety seemed to match that of Africa. There were huge countries in Asia such as China, Iran and Indonesia, which had a rich and varied fauna and flora which naturalists living in Britain knew nothing about. As the population of all these countries was growing rapidly, the pressure on wildlife must have been growing too. Yet there seemed to be nothing published on how tigers were faring in India or China and no-one knew if any Mongolian Wild Horses still existed in their remote vastness.
The cards and the albums provided at least some information and acted together as a sort of poor man's encyclopedia for those of us who had no access to detailed information on the habitats and what we would now call ‘conservation status’ of species.
Not long after David started collecting tea cards, he noticed that next to the introduction in the Asian-Wildlife album and beneath a drawing of a pair of blackbuck males sparring, was something typed in very small print. It read ‘if you are interested in the work being done to preserve wild life, write to The World Wildlife Fund, 2 Caxton Street, London’.
I did so and was sent a newsletter with an account of the newly formed organisation’s first projects – on a very limited budget. As I read the articles, I was fired into permanent orbit. At last, something was starting to be done! It was nice to know that other people felt as I did.
After we moved to Australia, I soon became concerned about the plight of much of the country’s wildlife and was astonished to find that in that huge expanse of continent, many wild mammals particularly, were endangered and there was, in 1963, already a long list of extinct animals.
58 years later I’m still a supporter, and very pleased to continue my legacy to nature through a gift in my Will to WWF-Australia.
David hopes that by sharing his experiences in nature he can inspire others to protect it. You can help too. Please consider including a to WWF just as David has, and ensure nature is protected into the future.