The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is an international conservation organization that helps protect endangered species and their habitats. In existence for over forty years, WWF has efforts in more than 100 countries with almost 1.2 million members in the United States alone and 4 million worldwide. WWF is the world’s biggest privately funded conservation centered organization. The organization has three world-wide goals: to save endangered species, to protect endangered habitats, and to address global environmental threats.
WWF’s mission is to protect natural areas and wild populations of plants and animals; to promote sustainable approaches for the use of renewable natural resources, and to promote more efficient use of resources while reducing pollution. WWF’s headquarters in the United States is what is known as a ‘green building’. It was built to conserve resources, limit waste, reduce pollution, and use donated funds wisely.
WWF’s efforts with endangered species cover many areas. Endangered species are determined by the World Conservation Union. The Union assesses the status of species and subspecies, the varieties and subpopulation on a global level, then highlights those species threatened with extinction and promotes efforts to conserve them. A complete list of all endangered, critically endangered and vulnerable species is produced by the Red List of Threatened Species.
Some examples of species WWF is currently working on conserving are the Atlantic Salmon, Giant Pandas, and Snow Leopards. The Atlantic Salmon is found in many parts of the world on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. An anadromous fish it spawns in freshwater but spends much of its life at sea. A popular catch for recreational fishermen, it, unfortunately, is in danger of becoming extinct. The Giant Panda is one of the most popular animals in the world.
Found only in China it is quickly becoming extinct due to loss of habitat and poaching. It is estimated that fewer than 2,000 panda remains today outside of captivity. Snow Leopards are beautiful big cats that inhabit the rugged, mountainous terrain of Central Asia and the Himalayas. Snow Leopards are currently in danger due to illegal trade of the animals, loss of habitat, and diminished access to food. If these threats continue at today’s current rates, the snow leopard population will soon have population numbers comparable to those of the endangered tiger.
Another area of interest to WWF is that of conservation. They work to protect real places such as forests, deserts, rivers, wetlands, and coral reefs, all of which contribute to the continuation of life. When the largest variety of habitats are saved, the broadest range of species and endangered wildlife is saved along with corresponding ecosystems. Sites vary around the world from Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to the Galapagos Islands to the Florida Everglades, all different ecosystems, all vitally important.
A third area WWF works in is that of addressing global challenges that impact the living planet. They do this through a wide variety of areas, one of which is the Agriculture and Aquaculture projects. Food can be produced worldwide through the use of agriculture and aquaculture, with each creating a different impact on the environment.
When these methods are done properly they can help to conserve not only the environment but local wildlife. Climate change, tied in not only to the growth of food sources, affects the whole environment. Global warming caused by humans is one of the greatest threats to the ecosystem and is also one of the most easily addressable issues.
Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide then traps heat in the atmosphere and causes global warming or an increase of temperatures in the atmosphere worldwide. A rise in global temperature threatens wild animals, changing the habitats on which they rely for survival.
As important as decreasing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the preservation of forests. Not only do forests recycle carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen but they provide us with lumber for houses, furniture, medicine, cosmetics, food, water and recreation. Unfortunately large amounts of forests are being cleared daily to make room for expanding civilization, to grow food or to graze animals.
Without all that forests provide, life on earth could be drastically reduced if they continue to disappear at the rate they are now. Equally important to life is the oceans. Oceans provide a home to thousands of species. Large amounts of food are provided worldwide from the oceans. Destructive fishing, illegal trade of marine life, and pollution all threaten the health of the world’s oceans.
All in all, WWF is one of the foremost and strongest leaders in the worldwide conservation efforts to save lives and habitats. With a multi-focused, but by no means scattered, approach, WWF is an incredible protector of our planet and strives to preserve it for future generations.