2020's most epic conservation wins

2020 has been an incredibly challenging year. The last 12 months have brought hardship to every corner of the globe that we have not collectively experienced in generations. But they have also brought us closer in unexpected ways and shown us just how connected we all are; that people and nature are intrinsically linked. 

Let's take a moment to honor that connection and reflect on the successes we were able to achieve together, even during a year like 2020. 

Onward to the future with hope and a resolve to make next year better than the last.


World's first solar-powered LED fishing net helps sea turtles swim free

Entanglement in fishing nets and lines is among the greatest threats to sea turtles worldwide, with hundreds of thousands of turtles unintentionally caught by commercial fishing vessels every year. To address this bycatch problem, WWF partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and scientist Jesse Senko of Arizona State University, and the design for the world’s first solar-powered LED fishing net was born. This year, the team is working together with the manufacturer to scale and produce the nets.

Tiger spotted at record-high elevation in Nepal 

Images from a new camera trap reveal the highest-elevation sighting of a tiger in Nepal, captured at over 8,000 feet in a densely forested area. This first-ever recorded evidence of a tiger at this high of an elevation in Nepal supports the notion that high-altitude habitats may provide refuge for tigers and help connect their territory between Nepal and India. The finding also expands Nepal’s known tiger distribution from the Terai Arc Landscape, as well as our understanding of tiger habitats now that there is evidence of their use of high-altitude areas.

Partnering with communities and companies to invest in the future of America's grasslands

A new project produced in collaboration with private landowners across North America's Northern Great Plains will help improve one million acres of grassland to help fight the climate crisis. WWF joins forces with The Walmart Foundation, McDonald’s, and Cargill to invest more than $6 million in this initiative.

100 bison find a new home with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe

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.

Rhinos make a comeback in India's Manas National Park

The greater one-horned rhinos in Manas National Park—their population once completely decimated by poaching—are making a comeback thanks to joint conservation efforts under the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 initiative. 

Today, there are around 3,700 greater one-horned rhinos in Asia, up from only 200 at the beginning of the 20th century.

WWF's first impact investment: seaweed farming

With funding from the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust, WWF announced an $854,100 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.

Namibia's conservancies get a lifeline for people and wildlife

The COVID-19 pandemic has reached every corner of the world and has had sweeping negative impacts to people and communities, threatening lives and livelihoods. In Namibia, soon after the country reported its first case of the virus in March 2020, the government declared a state of emergency. What followed was a national lockdown that brought tourism to a standstill—an industry once booming, generating more than 14% of Namibia's GDP, completely shut down. The impacts were felt immediately; thousands who once depended on the tourism industry for their livelihoods lost their jobs, and communities' vulnerability to hunger and economic hardship increased dramatically. This shut down also meant that protection for Namibia's wildlife decreased, given that revenue from tourism businesses helped to cover the costs of managing and protecting wildlife and habitats governed by conservancies.

As communities try to cope in the short term, the Namibian government, civil society, and passionate conservationists have rallied—with support from WWF and key partners—to help fill the void the pandemic has created. The Conservation Relief, Recovery and Resilience Facility (CRRRF) fund was developed—a coordinated national effort to provide immediate financial relief to Namibian conservancies affected by COVID-19.

Working with companies to solve the plastic crisis

From coastal shores to the Arctic to coral reefs, plastic pollution negatively affects all ecosystems. While we can and should work to clean up the existing mess of plastic pollution in our environment, the most important first step is to turn off the tap to stop the flow of plastic into our oceans and other ecosystems altogether.

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.

Rejection of mining permit marks important milestone in protection of Bristol Bay

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has denied a permit for developers to build the controversial Pebble Mine in Alaska, marking an important moment in the decade's long effort to protect Bristol Bay. The Bristol Bay community continues to lead the movement to stop developers. Standing with them are the more than 635,000 WWF supporters lending their voices in support by signing on to WWF's petition to stop Pebble Mine. This marks a huge win in the fight to protect this iconic, biodiverse landscape.

Critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins and the world’s most productive freshwater fishery saved from destructive dam

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.

Seed-dispersing drones help rebuild koala populations devastated by bushfires

In response to the 2019-2020 bushfire crisis in Australia, WWF launched the largest and most innovative wildlife and nature regeneration program in the country's history. 'Regenerate Australia' kicks off with an ambitious goal to double koala numbers on the east coast of the country by 2050, with the hope that the recovery of this species will also benefit many other local species, as well as boost the local economy of regional communities. To do this, WWF is using specialized drones to disperse eucalyptus seeds, with some drone models able to plant 40,000 seeds per day.

The Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability drafts first-ever global standards for seafood traceability

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 nearly 50 brands—including grocery chain Whole Foods Market—have committed to begin implementing these ocean-saving standards.