level: intermediate

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) logo

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is a non-governmental organization (or “NGO”) founded in 1961 to protect endangered species of wildlife and preserve natural habitats. WWF has grown to become the world’s largest conservation organization with over 5 million members worldwide. Find out more about WWF and what it does in the reading below, but before that why not learn the vocabulary in Wordchecker? After the reading you can watch a short film from WWF in which poet and rapper Kae Tempest recites her poem Future Visions of Our Planet. Improve your listening skills by doing a gap-fill exercise based on Kae’s poem, and then test your reading comprehension by doing our quiz.

The Founding of WWF

WWF was founded in Morges, Switzerland, in 1961. At first its goal was simply to raise funds to support other conservation organizations, as stated in its first manifesto:

They need, above all, money to carry out mercy missions and to meet conservation emergencies by buying land where wildlife treasures are threatened, and in many other ways. Money, for example, to pay guardians of wildlife refuges …. Money for education and propaganda among those who would care and help if only they understood. Money to send out experts to danger spots and to train more local wardens and helpers in Africa and elsewhere. Money to maintain a sort of ‘war room’ at the international headquarters of conservation, showing where the danger spots are and making it possible to ensure that their needs are met before it is too late.

Extract from Morges Manifesto (1961)

One of the first organizations WWF supported was the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The funds they gave IUCN helped it produce its first Red List of Threatened Species in 1964. The Red List has been continually updated with the latest scientific data on threatened species, with nearly 160,000 species assessed so far. Of these, more than 32,000 species are now listed as threatened with extinction, including 41% of all amphibians, 26% of mammals and 14% of birds. To best use the money it collects, WWF uses data like this to identify the most endangered species and support NGOs that are working to protect them.

Baby Gorillas playing while a mother is asleep, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda
Baby mountain gorillas playing in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in south-western Uganda. Photo: Charles J Sharp (CC BY-SA 4.0)

WWF Projects

In the 1970s, WWF also began doing projects of its own. In 1973 it bought 37,000 acres of land near Lake Nakuru in Kenya, an important habitat for many birds including flamingos. It also helped to establish nature reserves in Costa Rica, Colombia, Nepal and Mexico, as well as establishing projects in Africa to help protect critically endangered species like the white rhino and the mountain gorilla.

In the 1980s WWF began several new projects including the Lumparda Elephant Project that led to a sharp decline in the poaching of elephants and rhinos. In the 1990s many new projects were launched, including the Living Planet Campaign to produce regular Living Planet Reports on the state of the Earth’s biodiversity.

By the 2000s much of the work WWF had done over the previous 40 years was showing results. Populations of white rhinos had increased from just 100 to over 11,000, while black rhinos had increased by 30% in just ten years. By 2016 tiger populations were also increasing for the first time in over 100 years.

Despite good news like this, many other species are threatened or in danger of becoming extinct and WWF continues to work on many projects. It’s reintroducing endangered species like the American bison back into the wild, helping to reduce massive deforestation in places like Borneo and the Amazon, and helping to protect coral reefs and prevent overfishing throughout the world’s oceans.

Future Visions of Our Planet – A WWF Challenge

WWF also has many educational projects to teach people about urgent issues like climate change, habitat destruction and biodiversity loss. These projects include Earth Hour and Earth Day activities and its Apps For Earth project with Apple Corp. But learning about all these issues can sometimes make us feel sad and lose hope for the future. So WWF has also started online projects to remind us that a bright and sustainable future is still possible if we all work together.

In one such project, WWF and Silverback Films joined with digital artist Erik Wernquist to create a short film called Future Visions of Our Planet. WWF then challenged students and others to write a poem that fitted with the images and soundtrack of the film. WWF also invited several famous poets to do the same, including popular British poet and rapper Kae Tempest. You can see the film and hear Kae reciting her poem in the video below. You can also do the gap-fill exercise beneath it and then go down to the full transcript under Wordchecker to check your answers.

Video: Future Visions of Our Planet, a poem written and recited by British poet, musician and rapper Kae Tempest (formerly Kate Tempest).

Future Visions of Our Planet by Kae Tempest (with Gapfill Exercise)

First, watch the video and listen to Kae’s poem. Then listen again while reading the poem below and see if you can fill the gaps by using these words:
consumption | deforestation | exploitation | possibility | sustainable | turn a profit

biodiversity (noun): the number of different animals and plants living in a particular place – Loss of biodiversity due to habitat destruction is one of our biggest problems.

climate change (noun): global changes in temperature, wind patterns, rainfall, etc mainly caused by the emission of heat-trapping gases that cause global warming – If we don’t prevent further climate change, our own species could disappear.

conservation (noun): the preservation of natural resources like forests, wildlife, coastal habitats, etc – David has dedicated his life to the conservation of rainforests.

consumption (noun): the use of energy, fuel, materials, etc; the buying of goods and services – We need to reduce our consumption of plastics.

deforestation (noun): the clearing of forests to harvest timber or create farmland – The rate of deforestation has never been higher than it is now.

endangered (adjective): in danger of becoming extinct or disappearing in the near future – Did you know that over 30,000 species are already endangered?

exploitation (noun): 1. the use of natural resources 2. the unfair treatment of someone in order to benefit oneself – Low wages is just one example of the exploitation of workers.

extinct (adjective): no longer existing (esp. of a species of animal, bird, plant, etc) – How many native animals have become extinct since the British colonized Australia?

extinction (noun): the loss of a species of animal, bird, plant, etc for all time – The recent extinction of so many species in Australia is a terrible tragedy.

habitat (noun): the natural home of an animal, plant, or other living thing – With so much of their habitat destroyed, it’s no wonder gorillas are an endangered species.

non-governmental organization (abbr: “NGO”) (noun): an organization that isn’t part of a government and isn’t operating for profit – Most NGOs are funded by people who believe the work they’re doing is important.

poach (verb): to illegally catch or kill an animal, bird, fish, etc – If we keep buying ivory, elephant poaching will continue until they’re all gone.

possibility (noun): something that might happen, or the chance of something being true or real – Another possibility is that it’ll rain and we’ll be stuck indoors.

sustainable (adjective): able to continue for a long time without causing problems – We can survive if we develop sustainable lifestyles and use renewable energy.

threatened (adjective): in danger of becoming very rare or extinct (of a species) – Have you seen the latest list of threatened species?

turn a profit (phrase): to make money by selling something for more than it cost to make or supply – Most small businesses don’t turn a profit in their first year or two.

wildlife (noun): animals, birds, insects, etc living naturally in the wild – I love looking for wildlife in the forest.

Gapfill Exercise Transcript

Full transcript of Kae Tempest’s poem

Once upon a time, in a town much like your town, on a road much like your road,
Where the people lived and worked and passed their days much like the people that you know,
There was a feeling in the air of dread.
It was thick and dark and it got into the mouths and eyes and lungs.
“Our mother is dying” said the Dread.
But wait.
Once upon a time the story changed.
It was not Dread that tugged at people’s sleeves, but possibility.
The skies cleared over the city and the sun came through in a blast of golden light,
And we saw that we were standing on the crest of a mighty hill.
Our view was panoramic and we could see.

This endless exploitation does not make us happy.
This violent inequality destroys everybody’s freedom.
We know what mining does. We know what deforestation does. We know what plastic in the ocean does.
We know what humans need. We know what nature needs.
We could live differently.
We could consider our minuteness in the natural scheme of things.
We could fuel our lives in ways that are not harmful.
We could build our cities so they are sustainable.
We could encourage nature not just to survive, but to flourish.
If we made that our priority the animals would begin to multiply.
The oceans would recover. The people would remember how to feel simple things.

“It’ll never work” said Exhaustion.
“Money makes the world go round” said Dissatisfaction.
“If it doesn’t turn a profit it’s never going to happen” said Shame.
“Grow up” said Fear. “Put up” said Fear. “Shut up” said Fear.
“Isn’t this the very reason we were born into this age?” said Courage,
“To make the huge transition that the age demands?
Isn’t that the weight you feel – the weight of changing ages?”
“Why are you so afraid?” said Resolution.
“This is the only way” said Love.
Even as the cities roared the children could be heard above the noise of the machines.
“I want to live in a world where I can breathe the air and drink the water” they said.
“I don’t want the sea to boil or the forest to burn.”
“I want to look at the rising sun with ancient wonder.”
“I want to live in a world where the weather patterns are not deadly.”
“Where animals roam wild and are not just farmed for meat.”
“Where people have enough.”

“I want to be a human being, not an agent of consumption.”
“I was not born to spend.”
“I am more than the sum of my data.”
“I want to honour our planet.”
“I want to live on our planet.”
“I want to live.”

The time had come for a brand new story.
Once upon a time we were gifted with a present that was heavy.
It was now.

© Kae Tempest 2020

Further Reading

Further Viewing and Listening

  • Our Planet: Too Big To Fail

    A WWF film on the changes that must be made to our finance and economic systems to create a sustainable future.

Social Media

WWF Educational Resources

Contributor: Matt Errey creator of Word Up

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