As we celebrate 60 years of conservation at WWF, we reflect on how far we have come thanks to the dedication of our incredible supporters. As our need for conservation action has grown over the years, so too has the global support for our purpose at WWF. We are fortunate to have contributors from all places and backgrounds, however there are not many who can say that they have been there from the very start. David Waterhouse was a young man when he first heard about WWF in 1961. Now 60 years later, he is one of our longest dedicated donors and he intends his support to continue through a gift in his Will.
To help us celebrate 60 years of conservation, David wrote to us to share his experience as a long-time loyal WWF supporter.
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 conceived. I found out about it by reading the small print in a sixpenny album designed for interested school children to stick free coloured cards into the spaces provided. These cards were brightly painted miniature gems portraying wildlife and given away by the Brooke Bond Tea Company in their tea packets and tins. Each summer, a new series of fifty cards were issued, including such topics as British Wild Flowers, Bird Portraits, British Wildlife, Freshwater Fish, then expanding further afield, to include Tropical Birds and African Wildlife.
All of the cards were painted in bright hues by a wildlife artist, C.F. Tunnicliffe RA, whose studio can still be seen on the Isle of Anglesey off North Wales. 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.
In the summer of 1962, a new series came out, entitled Asian Wildlife, almost entirely portraying 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.
The knowledge gathered from these cards and accompanying albums was enlightening and welcome because it was difficult to find information on Asian wildlife, whose astonishing variety seemed to match that of Africa. Library books on the subject seemed to focus on tales of hunting (or ‘shikar’) in India, all written in the 1920s and 30s and concentrating on big game and more especially man-eating tigers and leopards. Mentions of other wildlife were largely incidental. There were huge countries in Asia such as China, Iran and Indonesia, which had a rich and varied fauna and flora that young (or old, for that matter) 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.
Even in those days, I had a suspicion that sometimes the information on the backs of the cards and in the albums concerning status was out of date. In one case at least, I soon discovered that I was right. The card featuring the blackbuck antelope blandly stated that the animal could be found throughout India ‘from the foothills of the Himalayas to Cape Comorin’ (the southernmost tip of India). One day, not long before we left for Australia, my father introduced me to a work colleague who I was told had been a keen ‘shikari’ or hunter in India. When I met him, I asked him about tigers and blackbucks as well. He told me that the number of tigers had declined drastically through shooting and poisoning and that a friend had written to him from India and mentioned that the blackbuck which could be found only two miles from his home a few years ago in the 1950s could now be found only much further away. Also that the herds formerly in hundreds had dwindled to a scattered few.
Clearly, the situation had worsened dramatically and I was both saddened and angry that this was the case. No one else seemed to care or simply said, “yes it’s a shame, but it’s inevitable. You can’t stop progress you know”.
Surely, I thought, it is possible for the world to progress without destroying all of nature. The world would be much poorer if we kept going on the way we were.
Not long afterwards, I 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 wildlife, write to the World Wildlife Fund’. 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.
When Australia, along with a growing list of other countries also established WWF branches, I became a regular contributor and have remained so for all these many years. Having been aware of WWF since soon after its foundation, sixty years ago, I also had no hesitation in ensuring that I bequeathed a legacy to the future of the organisation.
David hopes that by sharing his experiences in nature he can inspire others to protect it. You can help too. Please consider including a gift in your Will to WWF just as David has, and ensure nature is protected into the future.
Whether you decide to leave a gift in your Will, donate to our Koalas Forever project, become a partner or register your innovative idea into our Bushfire Regeneration Challenge, you have the power to help Regenerate Australia. Get involved during WWF’s 60th anniversary and help us secure the future for our planet. To find out more, donate and join us as we Regenerate Australia - visit here.