An important win for the world's largest tropical wetland

An important win for the world's largest tropical wetland

The world’s largest tropical wetland notched an important win today with new commitments that require sustainable development of the Pantanal, a 42-million-acre wetland that touches three countries. It ensures that all future development of this essential landscape is balanced with the needs of wildlife and people.

Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay signed the landmark declaration that calls for sustainable development of the Pantanal, a 42-million-acre wetland that touches each country. The decision follows years of collaboration among the governments that are securing a prosperous future for one of the most biologically rich ecosystems on the planet. WWF has assisted this effort and applauds this landmark move. 

The Pantanal is a surprisingly well-kept secret in comparison to the Amazon, despite its massive size and the more than 4,700 animal and plant species that live within it.

Millions of people living downstream rely on its crucial natural resources and benefits, including natural flood control, groundwater recharge, river flow for boats to navigate, and absorption of carbon. A study conducted by Brazil's Agricultural Research Corporation concluded that these natural benefits are valued at $112 billion a year.

An essential resource under threat
All of the Pantanal’s natural wealth could be highly threatened if it is not developed in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner. Harmful land uses in the Pantanal have already contributed to the loss of more than 12% of the region’s forest cover. And scientists predict that the Pantanal’s native vegetation will disappear by 2050 if we don’t act now to combat this trend. Inadequate development planning by any of the three countries could damage not only the region's lucrative economy and the well-being of its inhabitants, but also the stability of the world’s fifth-largest basin, the Rio de la Plata, in which the Pantanal is located.

By signing the Declaration for the Conservation, Integrated and Sustainable Development of the Pantanal, Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay recognize their shared responsibility to steward this vital resource. Together they’re ensuring that development of this beautiful and essential wetland is balanced with the needs of the environment and people.

Want to do more to protect valuable freshwater resources? Join WWF's Freshwater Force.

Published March 22, 2018 at 05:00AM

Last male northern white rhino dies

Last male northern white rhino dies

He was known as the Last Male Standing and attracted the attention of people around the world, but on March 19, 2018 the last male northern white rhino died. Sudan, 45 years old, had been under armed guard to protect him from the threat of poachers.
His death is heartbreaking. The extinction of the northern white rhino is happening before our eyes.

Why has this happened?

Rhinos are the targets of poaching because of an insatiable demand for their horns on the black market. It's thought that an average of three rhinos are lost to poachers every day, and poaching gangs are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
Sudan was guarded and cared for by Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya and died at an old age, but for many rhinos it's a different story.

It's illegal to buy and sell rhino horn, but the trade continues because of a belief in the horn's medicinal properties. It's a stark example of the devastating impact of the illegal wildlife trade on threatened species.

Urgent action to tackle the illegal wildlife trade is needed now more than ever. To prevent more tragedies like that of the northern white rhino, everything possible must be done to cut demand, crack down on corruption, and tackle poaching.

Cause for hope

The story is almost over for the northern white rhino, with only two females remaining in the world, but there is good news elsewhere. The southern white rhino has recovered from a population of fewer than 100 in the late nineteenth century to just over 20,000 today, and rhino poaching in Nepal has been reduced to almost zero.

WWF will continue to fight for rhinos, and to put an end to the illegal wildlife trade once and for all.

Published March 21, 2018 at 05:00AM

How businesses can support a world united around water

How businesses can support a world united around water

There are few things that connect the human race as acutely as water. We all need it – to drink, to wash, to heal, to do just about anything. But we also all impact it. Water is the ultimate shared resource – what we dump into a river leads to the ocean and connected freshwater sources all around the world, affecting everyone. Water both builds and binds us, so it’s together that we must care for this precious resource.

While there’s a responsibility for everyone and everything to protect our water – from governments to communities and everyone in between – businesses have a special opportunity to be water stewards.

For your average business, water is present everywhere. Water flows from corporate headquarters, through manufacturing facilities and complex supply chains, into the fields where raw materials are grown and to communities where people live and work. That water doesn’t come from a tap - it is generated from river and groundwater basins – the likes of which collectively drive our world economy.

If we address water issues, we can secure the productivity of the world's 10 most populous river basins, which is projected to double by 2050. Doing so will not be easy – already freshwater species are disappearing from the planet faster than any other. This is why we are working to help achieve the world’s big, audacious water goal – to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Most companies already know that water will affect their business growth and profitability and are making the businesses decisions to address water needs – particularly on how to operate facilities in ways that reduce water risks and promote sustainable management. Even shareholders and investors are increasingly interested in how companies are addressing water issues. Water is now recognized as a material risk, and stewardship is critical to long-term business growth.

But private sector’s impact on water issues can go well beyond the locations they choose to build their companies. Businesses can act as agents of innovation and change that will help us meet the water challenges of today and tomorrow. Private sector’s influence is enormous, and where it chooses to lead on natural resource management will be critical to tackling our water issues. That’s why working with corporations to be water stewards is a priority for World Wildlife Fund.

At WWF, our water team has a local-to-global approach that enables us to partner with companies ready to become water stewards, while also advancing the global dialogue on water issues. We help companies understand water risks, connect them to the tools to care for water, and create holistic water strategies that benefit their bottom lines and the world.

We need our water, we share water, so let’s take care of it together.

Published March 22, 2018 at 05:00AM

An illegal logger in Tanzania becomes a forest defender

An illegal logger in Tanzania becomes a forest defender

When his three daughters were hungry, Omary Mbunda would turn to illegal timber for money. For him and others in his village of Mbondo, Tanzania, the trees and wildlife in nearby Liuninga Forest Reserve were reliable sources of income and food.

That changed when the CARE-WWF Alliance—a partnership focused on creating food systems that better nourish vulnerable communities while supporting healthy ecosystems—began promoting sustainable forestry management and conservation agriculture in Mbondo in 2015. Mbunda’s neighbors elected him to participate in a local committee to conserve the surrounding landscape and its natural resources, including timber. Who better to protect the forest than someone who’s intimately familiar with illegal logging?

Mbunda began employing his deep knowledge of the Liuninga Forest to collaborate with village game scouts to apprehend illegal poachers and loggers.

“The CARE-WWF Alliance intervention in Mbondo village…gave us insights on forest conservation and its significance,” Mbunda said. “The forest brought us rain, water, as well as good breathing air. Together with the district council’s officials, [the Alliance] has strengthened our understanding on forests conservation and its benefits. Also, they taught us proper ways of harvesting timber and other forest products for relatively cheap prices, by getting proper licenses and permits.”

Now, rather than selling a single illegally harvested piece of timber for less than a quarter, the Village Natural Resources Committee selectively harvests whole trees—determined by a combination of the forest’s regeneration capacity, market demand, and economic value—to turn a greater profit.

With the support of the Alliance, illegal forest activities like unsustainable logging and poaching are far less tolerated. Villagers tend to comply with bylaws, procedures, and guidelines put forward in the forest management plan, and those who don’t face fines, permit fees, and confiscation of timber. The natural resources committee has collected several thousand dollars from violators, which they’ve used to purchase three bicycles to help village game scouts more effectively patrol the Liuninga Forest and larger wildlife management area and development priorities as determined by the community, including latrine construction and buying desks for Mbondo’s primary school.

When Mbunda turned away from illegal logging, he redoubled his farming efforts, formerly his secondary source of income. Alongside his wife, he now devotes himself to growing a mix of cash and staple crops to support his family, including maize, sorghum, sesame, and peas. He's also considering adopting climate-smart agricultural practices taught by the Alliance’s Farmer Field and Business School (FFBS) to increase their yields and incomes, reducing annual expansion into nearby forests. “Now I see the FFBS plot performing wonders, so am more convinced that I personally can do the same,” Mbunda said. “Without [the Alliance], our fragile natural resources would be in jeopardy [and] the future generation would not perhaps get a chance to see them.” Alliance interventions may serve as an important catalyst, but sustainable livelihoods and forest conservation are driven by the openness to change and hard work of people like Mbunda.

Learn more about the CARE-WWF Alliance.

Published March 21, 2018 at 05:00AM

9 reasons for hope in the face of climate change

9 reasons for hope in the face of climate change

Climate change is one of the greatest threats facing people, wildlife, and the planet. From warming temperatures to more extreme weather, communities in the US and around the world are already feeling the impacts.

But we can create a safer and more resilient future if we work together to rethink the way we produce and consume energy, food, and water; protect the world’s forests; and help people prepare for inevitable change. Such a task can feel overwhelming and daunting at times. After all, doing so requires swift and collective movement from every nation at a time when visions don’t always align.

Although the US government has announced its intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement—the world’s roadmap for addressing climate change in coming the years—a new generation of climate leaders in America is committed to ensuring the US remains a global leader in fighting climate change. With the help of WWF, millions of people, America’s leading businesses, cities, states, colleges and universities are joining world leaders to tackle climate change.

We believe that addressing climate change requires collaboration from everyone. Here are nine reasons why we’re hopeful in the face of this threat:

  1. In response to the Trump Administration’s intent to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement, thousands of CEOs, college presidents, mayors, governors, tribal leaders, and communities of faith are standing shoulder to shoulder, declaring with one voice that America is “still in” on fighting climate change. As part of the We Are Still In movement, these 2,600 leaders from the are committed delivering on the US’ goals under the Paris Agreement and to ensuring the US remains a global leader in reducing emissions.

  2. More than 1,800 businesses and investorsrepresenting over $2.3 trillion in annual revenue and employing over 4.7 million Americans—are part of the We Are Still In movement. As the face of the US economy, these businesses and investors can make a significant impact in the global fight against climate change.
  1. Today, 18 states and tribes, and more than 250 cities and counties are part of the We Are Still In movement, representing 130 million residents and roughly one third of the entire US economy. Cities and states must reduce their carbon emissions in order for the US to deliver strong action on climate change.
  1. 335 of America’s colleges and universities are committed to climate action and the We Are Still In movement. These institutions are cutting their carbon pollution and equipping more than 4.2 million students with the skills and knowledge to build a low-carbon future.

  2. Half of America’s Fortune 500 companies have a goal to cut climate pollution. Their efforts are equivalent of taking more than 40 coal fired power plants offline for a year.
  1. A total of 74 American companies seek to power their operations with renewable energy—the equivalent of powering 6.2 million American homes. They’re calling for greater access to renewable energy across America to power their businesses, and encouraging other companies to follow their lead.

  2. More than 300 companies around the world are setting targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions based on climate science. Just this week, McDonald’s set a new science-based climate target, becoming the first global restaurant company to do so. By aligning their business plans with the Paris Agreement’s global temperature goals, companies are driven to find new and innovative ways to reach them—and encouraging their supply chains to make similar pledges. Companies that reduce emissions and cut energy use can often save money, too.

  3. More than 3.3 million Americans are employed in the clean energy economy. There are more American jobs in renewable energy than in traditional fossil fuels.

  4. You! People like you who care about our planet are standing together to take action on climate change. Join us by turning off your lights for Earth Hour at 8:30 local times this Saturday and spread the word to friends and family through word of mouth and on social media using #EarthHour. Every individual gives Earth Hour a louder voice.

Published March 20, 2018 at 05:00AM

Activists make a splash on Capitol Hill advocating for international conservation funding

Activists make a splash on Capitol Hill advocating for international conservation funding

A group of Marylanders wended through a narrow underground passage painted in peach and punctuated by a series of doorways leading to halls and rooms unknown. The path led them to a stone spiral staircase and when they reached the top, a door swung open to a far grander space: The United States Capitol.

Here they would meet with Representative Steny Hoyer—a Maryland Congressman—to share their thoughts on the most pressing environmental threats facing our planet and thank him for his support of international conservation funding.

Activists from around the country assembled on Capitol Hill for WWF’s Lobby Day 2018 to persuade lawmakers to maintain the amount of funding the United States government provides for international conservation programs. Altogether they made their voices heard through more than 100 meetings with representatives, senators, and congressional staff.

“Being in those meetings speaking with staff, speaking with representatives, and understanding how our government works was such an amazing experience,” said Christopher Pham, a WWF Panda Ambassador from Maryland. “It gave me a peek behind the curtain to realize that these are people, too, and whether it’s a representative or the staff or other activists, people care. And knowing that I’m not alone—that we’re not alone—in this fight is something I’ll take away.”

Meeting with representatives in person is one of the best ways to affect change. It lets them know their constituents care and are paying attention, making them more likely vote to continue US supports for these vital efforts.

A history of support
The US government has long been a leader in international conservation and encouraged other countries to cooperate on efforts to conserve wildlife, habitats, and natural resources, particularly in the developing world. The foreign assistance budget is less than 1% of the federal budget, and conservation funding is even smaller—less than 1% of that. The programs funded through the international conservation federal budget help countries manage their natural resources sustainably, crack down on illegal wildlife trafficking, and combat the illegal trade of timber and fish. This assistance overseas helps prevent future conflicts, strengthen our relationships abroad, and create a brighter economic and natural future for both other nations and ourselves.

Activists rising
Throughout the day, activists expressed their passion for conservation through a personal lens. An entomologist tied insect populations to the health of forests; a seventh-grader described a class field trip to the Chesapeake Bay that helped spark his interest in the natural world; a woman from Hawaii explained how what happens in the ocean in one place impacts life thousands of miles away.

Together, their voices made a striking impression in the halls of Congress.

“Yesterday, we opened doors for conservation,” said Sara Thomas, director of activism and outreach for WWF. “As I walked the halls of Congress, participating in several meetings alongside our supporters, I watched as Panda Ambassadors transformed into seasoned activists, telling their story and hosting important conversations with congressional staff across party lines. I witnessed a sea change of hope as relationships between activists and congressional leaders were established and common bonds formed over the need to protect our planet for a better future.”

For the Maryland group making their way to legislators through elegant walkways and hidden shortcuts, the power of Lobby Day 2018 was clear. Both the sheer number of activists who joined them in their cause and the positive response from their representatives proved that using your voice matters.     

“Putting face time in and showing up is a big deal,” said Amanda Jorgensen, a Panda Ambassador from Maryland. “We’re letting our representatives and senators know that we are here. We are going to show up and do our part. We care.”

Want to get more involved in WWF's conservation work? Become a Panda Ambassador.

Published March 15, 2018 at 05:00AM

Climate change could imperil half of plant and animal species in the world’s most naturally rich areas

Climate change could imperil half of plant and animal species in the world’s most naturally rich areas

Up to half of plant and animal species in the world’s most naturally rich areas—including the Amazon and the Gal├ípagos—could face extinction by the turn of the century due to climate change if carbon emissions continue to rise unchecked.

A new study examines various climate change scenarios—from 4.5°C rise in global mean temperatures if we don’t cut emissions to a 2°C rise if we meet the upper limit for temperature set in the Paris Agreement—and their impact on nearly 80,000 plant and animal species in 35 of the world’s most diverse and naturally wildlife-rich areas. Researchers selected each area for its uniqueness and the variety of plants and animals found there.

The findings point to an urgent need for action on climate change:

  • We’ll see almost 50% species loss in areas studied if global temperatures rise by 4.5°C
  • We’ll see less than 25% species loss in areas studied if we limit global temperature rise to 2°C

“Hotter days, longer periods of drought, and more intense storms are becoming the new normal, and species around the world are already feeling the effects,” said Nikhil Advani, lead specialist for climate, communities, and wildlife at WWF. “While we work to ratchet down emissions, it’s critical we also improve our understanding of species response to climate change and develop strategies to help them adapt.”

If wildlife can move freely to new locations, then the risk of extinction in these areas decreases from around 25% to 20%—but only in a scenario in which we keep global mean temperature rise to 2°C. And if species cannot move or evolve, they may not be able to survive.


Impacts of Climate Change on Wildlife

What Can We Do?

The best way to protect against loss of wildlife and plant life is to keep global temperature rise as low as possible. The Paris Agreement pledges to reduce the expected level of global warming from 4.5°C to around 3°C, which reduces the impacts. But we see even greater improvements at 2°C. And if we can limit that even more, to a 1.5°C rise, we could protect even more life.

Although the US government has signaled its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, America’s cities, states, businesses, and others are working with world leaders to turn the promise of that agreement into concrete action through the We Are Still In movement.

In the immediate, WWF is working to better understand how a changing climate impacts wildlife and developing and implementing adaptation solutions. We are assessing various species to determine traits that can make them resilient or vulnerable to changes in climate; crowdsourcing data on climate impacts; and funding projects which have potential to reduce the vulnerability of species to changes in climate through our Wildlife Adaptation Innovation Fund.

WWF hopes to use lessons learned from this research and testing to provide useful guidance that moves conservation beyond business-as-usual approaches and scale up promising efforts to help wildlife endure under conditions of rapid change.

The faster and more effectively we act, the better chance we have of saving invaluable species around the world in the face of climate change.

Read the study, completed by the University of East Anglia, the James Cook University, and WWF.


Published March 13, 2018 at 05:00AM


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