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WWF works to sustain the natural world for the benefit of people and wildlife, collaborating with partners from local to global levels in nearly 100 countries.
2020 Annual Report
In a year of unparalleled challenges, WWF stood strong, continuing to deliver results that benefit both people and nature and move us toward a healthy natural world.
"We received a lot of support from WWF. They helped us with food and medical supplies, and also with water, so everyone can drink, because our water was very contaminated.”
Alcides Pinto Supayabe Cacique, Rio Blanco community, Bolivia
When wildfires burned through the Amazon and Australia, WWF mobilized emergency funds from a diverse group of new and existing donors to support people and wildlife. WWF-US raised nearly $2 million to support partners and local communities on the front lines in Brazil and Bolivia—enough to provide firefighting equipment, food, water, medical supplies, training to monitor ongoing fires, and radios. In Australia, in addition to the human toll, an estimated 3 billion animals died in the blazes. A portion of the $6.8 million WWF raised was funneled to local wildlife rescue organizations to recover and rehabilitate species like koalas and sugar gliders.
As part of a coalition with Indigenous peoples’ organizations and nonprofits funded by an $18 million USAID grant, WWF launched the Amazon Indigenous Rights and Resources project to better incorporate Indigenous peoples’ rights and perspectives into the sustainable economic development of the Amazon. WWF has worked in the Amazon for more than 40 years to protect forests, safeguard species, and develop sustainable livelihoods for more than 350 Indigenous and ethnic groups.
Efforts by WWF helped fuel the largest ever youth-led climate mobilization at the UN Climate Action Summit and General Assembly, as well as participation by more than 7.5 million people in global strikes to raise awareness about the climate crisis.
“Walking in the climate march and sharing our perspective on climate advocacy was incredible. Being able to share more about how Alaska knows climate change, and also to see the rest of the people who are in this movement with us at the march, reminded me we are on our way to making a better world.”
Student at Mount Holyoke College
In coordination with the World Economic Forum, WWF’s Global Science Team released “The Nature of Risk,” an innovative framework for understanding how the loss of ecosystem services like food, water, and carbon sequestration poses significant risks to business, finance, and society as a whole.
WWF and Johnson & Johnson teamed up through the Forests and Health initiative to better understand and illuminate the connection between forests and public health. Already, findings have shown that intact forests can benefit human health and help governments sidestep the financial costs of public health crises by stopping them before they start.
“Building bridges between people is essential. At Copaíba, we have the experience and the ability to restore our forest and produce seedlings. The more we can join forces, the more areas will be restored, no question. This support makes us stronger. It is very gratifying to be part of this process, to be part of restoring our home.”
Mayra Flores Forest Restoration Coordinator, Copaíba
In 2018, WWF partnered with International Paper to restore 250 high-priority acres in Brazil’s species-rich Atlantic Forest, home to the iconic jaguar. With the first round of company-supported planting underway, this year WWF also teamed up with HP to restore more than 1,200 acres of this native forest. In addition, HP’s support will enable WWF and partners to improve management of more than 197,000 acres in China while increasing consumer awareness of—and demand for—responsibly sourced forest products.
WWF celebrated 25 years of the Russell E. Train Education for Nature Program (EFN), which helps educate and train conservation leaders to tackle environmental challenges in their home countries.
To date, EFN has supported more than 2,700 organizations and individuals, including the first primatologist in Laos, Peru’s leading orchid expert, and EFN’s new director, a scientist and fishery governance expert.
“Since its founding 26 years ago, WWF’s Russell E. Train Education for Nature Program has supported incredible individuals who continue to address the world’s biodiversity challenges. As an alumna, I know this program shaped my vision of advancing ecological conservation. I’m excited to be part of the collective effort to build the next generation of conservation leaders.”
Nelly Kadagi Director
Conservation Leadership & Education for Nature Program
Thanks to the generosity of more than 2,500 WWF donors and partner organizations, WWF provided nearly $245,000 toward building 45 miles of new fence that extends habitat in Badlands National Park for approximately 1,200 bison. The herd now grazes on 80,193 acres—an area larger than the island of Manhattan.
To connect the next generation of conservation leaders with global experts and further their outstanding contributions to the environment, WWF-US announced the inaugural Youth Leadership Award. Each year a winner will be awarded $5,000 to fund their academic or professional development.
Critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles have a better shot at survival now that WWF-Australia and Royal Caribbean have joined forces to help stop the illegal trade of tortoiseshell products. The partnership pioneers new technology to track turtle DNA from point of sale to point of origin, in hopes of identifying the hawksbill populations most at risk of being poached.
“We noticed that there were no turtles to be seen while we were out fishing, so we worked in partnership with government agencies and WWF to effect a ban on turtle harvesting. We also put in place a recovery plan for sea turtles. Now more turtles are seen in our waters.”
Seru Moce, Interim Chairman for the Qoliqoli Cokovata Management Committee, Macuata, Fiji
WWF backed the first survey in 15 years of Fiji’s Great Sea Reef, the third-largest barrier reef system in the world. The data will inform our work with the Fijian government and local communities to establish a network of marine protected areas that will cover 30% of the country’s waters by 2030.
At WWF’s Kathryn S. Fuller Science for Nature Symposium, thought leaders from a range of disciplines explored the intersection between human well-being and the health of our environment.
Experts brainstormed conservation solutions to confront global health challenges like environmental degradation and infectious diseases.
"I went to western Kenya to work on child malnutrition. Yet I couldn’t focus on that without also considering water, agriculture, soil and the land, and women’s empowerment. It’s of immense value to spotlight the science on the connections between health and nature; it was amazing to join the Fuller Symposium, where all these interconnections were discussed.”
Professor Ruth Khasaya Oniang'o
Founder, Rural Outreach Africa
WWF’s advocacy in support of US funding for conservation helped convince Congress to pass a 10% increase for USAID’s Biodiversity Conservation programs as well as a 30% bump for US Fish and Wildlife Service programs that benefit species including elephants, rhinos, and tigers.
At the 2019 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, WWF amplified the voices of US-based influencers and leaders for We Are Still In—a coalition of nearly 4,000 leaders of American colleges, universities, businesses, cities, and states committed to reducing emissions and embracing clean energy.
Wildlife Insights, a cloud-based platform operated by WWF and partners, houses the largest publicly accessible database of camera trap images in the world. The artificial intelligence-enabled software allows for rapid synthesis of thousands of images, increased collaboration, and the ability to better monitor endangered species in their natural habitats.
"Food waste is an incredible economic and environmental burden. By pairing WWF’s research and advocacy with federal grants to support schools, we can teach kids about the impacts of food waste from an early age. This will save money and empower the next generation with a deeper understanding of the relationship between their plate and the environment.”
US Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine)
In one of the largest cafeteria waste audit samples collected to date, WWF—with support from The Kroger Co. Foundation and the EPA—analyzed waste from students’ plates in 46 schools in nine US cities across eight states. The study found that national food waste in schools could reach an estimated 530,000 tons per year—but also that participating schools were able to reduce their food waste by an average of 3% in just four months. If schools nationwide could reduce food waste by the same amount, that would be equivalent to taking more than 12,000 cars off the road for one year.
In collaboration with environmental disclosure organization CDP, the UN Global Compact, and World Resources Institute, WWF helped more than 900 companies set, or commit to set, science-based targets for cutting their greenhouse gas emissions. WWF is now leading a new effort to help companies reduce their impact on—and even restore—land, oceans, freshwater, and biodiversity by 2025.
WWF partnered with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe; their economic arm, REDCO; and Rosebud Tribal Land Enterprise to secure nearly 28,000 acres for what will become North America’s largest Native-owned and managed bison herd.
The new Wolakota Buffalo Range can support 1,500 bison and is a hallmark of WWF’s partnership with Native nations in the Northern Great Plains, as we jointly develop healthy bison herds for conservation.
"We’re Lakota people, and that means we’re buffalo people. They’ve always taken care of us and we need to take care of them. Working with WWF on buffalo restoration has been an amazing journey made possible because of the organization’s wonderful, dedicated staff.”
Wizipan Little Elk, CEO, Rosebud Economic Development Corporation
The Dutch Postcode Lottery awarded $20 million to WWF, Peace Parks Foundation, and African Parks to protect elephants and address the ecological and socioeconomic development of KAZA, in Southern Africa. Tied to the Kavango and Zambezi rivers for which it is named, this mosaic of woodland, grassland, and wetland habitats straddles five countries and is the world’s largest transfrontier conservation area.
In partnership with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, WWF-Paraguay and the Central Bank of Paraguay developed requirements for financial institutions to help guide the sustainable production of beef and soy—a leading cause of deforestation in Latin America—in order to slow the rate of land conversion and decrease biodiversity loss.
According to India’s latest tiger population estimates, wild tiger numbers are stable or growing. WWF works to conserve and connect big-cat habitat, monitor tigers and their prey, manage human-tiger conflict, stop the illegal trade in tigers and other wildlife, and help government leaders strengthen regulations to protect the world’s largest cat.
As part of an industry forum that includes more than 70 companies across the seafood supply chain, WWF released the first-ever global standards for tracking seafood products from source to sale. So far more than 40 brands—including grocery chain Whole Foods Market—have committed to begin implementing these ocean-saving standards.
Since its launch in 2018, the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online has blocked or removed more than 3 million listings for endangered species and products, including elephant ivory and pangolin scales, as well as live animals like tiger cubs.
After years of scientific research, advocacy, and community and government engagement by WWF-Cambodia and our partners, the government of Cambodia abandoned plans to build the Sambor hydropower dam on the Mekong River and put a 10-year halt on future dam construction on the river’s main artery.
A free-flowing Mekong protects the world’s most productive freshwater fishery and supports breathtaking biodiversity, including the largest population of Irrawaddy river dolphins on Earth. WWF-Cambodia is poised to support federal development of a sustainable energy plan that promotes clean and renewable energy alternatives while keeping the mighty Mekong intact.
"If the Sambor Dam was built, it would have a terrible impact on our communities and natural resources, the forests, fish, and Irrawaddy dolphins. My community urged the government to consider the environmental impacts of the proposed dam, so hearing development had been postponed for 10 years made me very happy. Keeping the lower Mekong free flowing is the best decision for people and nature.”
Community Fisheries Chief, Kampong Kabeoung, Kratie, Cambodia
By providing rainwater harvesting systems for schools and households, in addition to separate water resources for wildlife, WWF-Kenya began helping rural communities bordering Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve adapt to warmer and drier conditions driven by climate change.
“I am proud to have contributed to the research and planning of ArcNet, which uses rigorous spatial scientific analysis that recognizes the fundamental attributes of marine biodiversity. The significance of this international team effort for future generations cannot be overemphasized."
John C. Roff Canada Research Chair in Environmental Science and Conservation at Acadia University, Canada (ret.)
After years of analysis, WWF finished compiling ArcNet, the world’s most in-depth database of Arctic biodiversity. By identifying the locations of species populations (including marine mammals, seabirds, and fish), scientists mapped a network of priority areas for marine conservation. ArcNet facilitates ocean planning to meet the needs of Arctic wildlife like the walrus, gray whales, and beluga whales of the Bering Strait.
A study by WWF-Brazil revealed that the same amount of energy produced by 125 proposed hydropower projects that threaten Brazil’s Pantanal can be generated by renewable sources already found in the region, such as solar, animal waste, and excess biomass from sugarcane production.
“Hydropower dams threaten the Pantanal’s flood-dependent ecosystem and the millions of lives that depend on it. Renewable energy is both possible and essential. Solar plants we developed with isolated communities in the Pantanal save energy and benefit our people. This study highlights a critical solution to hydropower dams—a win for all those who defend the Pantanal.”
André Luiz Siqueira
CEO, Ecology and Action, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil
USAID issued a $38 million biodiversity grant to WWF-Vietnam and our partners to protect forests and stabilize threatened wildlife populations in Vietnam. The project represents a major step forward for biodiversity conservation and wildlife protection in Southeast Asia.h
With funding from the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust, WWF announced an $850,000 investment in Ocean Rainforest, a small for-profit company that operates a seaweed nursery, farms, and processing facility around the North Atlantic’s Faroe Islands. Seaweed is a fast-growing marine vegetable that is both a nutritious food source and—because it is highly efficient at absorbing CO2—a valuable carbon sink. This venture marks WWF-US’s first impact investment, an effort designed to accelerate innovative business ideas that generate positive environmental outcomes as well as financial returns.
WWF analyzed the plastic use of five companies, including McDonald’s Corporation and The Coca-Cola Company, and identified just how much plastic companies were using and where it went after it was disposed of. Thanks to these companies’ transparent disclosure of their plastic footprints, WWF has identified pain points in the plastic life cycle that serve as a starting point for recognizing global plastic trends across industries. Onboarding 100 more companies to the project could keep more than 50 million metric tons of plastic out of nature over time.
In early 2020, much of the world was struck by the onslaught of COVID-19. WWF stepped into action.
As the pandemic spread across the globe, a survey commissioned by WWF in five Asian countries found that almost 80% of respondents believed that closing illegal wildlife markets could prevent emerging infectious diseases. In February, China issued a ban on trade in wildlife for human consumption, which is suspected to be the source of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“We all want to do our part to reduce the risk of future pandemics. As a conservation organization, we must remain focused on addressing the root causes, which lie at the intersection of humans and the natural world.”
Chief Scientist, WWF
A WWF science brief identified the three main drivers behind emerging infectious diseases like the novel coronavirus: deforestation and other land-use change, wildlife exploitation, and the expansion of livestock production. These activities encroach upon wild places, increasing human contact with wildlife and opportunities for zoonotic transmission—the spillover of pathogens from animals to humans. The brief also disclosed scientific evidence that proves these same drivers contribute to both climate change and biodiversity loss. With skyrocketing global demand for animal protein and wildlife products comes increased risk as people, livestock, and wildlife interface more regularly. Tackling the root causes of these drivers will be instrumental in preventing future zoonotic events.
When tourism ground to a halt in the wake of COVID-19, WWF sprang into action to help communities in Namibia who depend on the region’s wildlife economy. Working alongside government and in-country partners, we helped the National Conservation Relief, Recovery, and Resilience Facility secure $8.5 million to help communal conservancies withstand plummeting tourism revenue while managing wildlife like elephants and black rhinos.
As the crisis exposed the risks of zoonotic diseases—to both public health and the global economy—WWF launched a campaign to urge leaders to safeguard human health against future pandemics by changing how we interact with wildlife, produce food, and use land.