A small but influential group of Europeans—scientists, naturalists, business and political leaders—rose to the occasion: on September 11, 1961 World Wildlife Fund was formed and soon set up shop at IUCN’s headquarters in Morges, Switzerland. H.R.H. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands became the organization’s first president.
Several leaders arranged the key organizational meeting for the new venture.
Those involved include noted biologist and African wildlife enthusiast Sir Julian Huxley, IUCN vice president Sir Peter Scott and director-general of the British Nature Conservancy E. M. Nicholson. The decision was made to establish World Wildlife Fund as an international fundraising organization that will work in collaboration with existing conservation groups to bring substantial financial support to the conservation movement on a worldwide scale. The new organization will raise funds through national appeals and, using the best scientific advice available from IUCN and other sources, channel the money to appropriate organizations. The first call for broad support was the Morges Manifesto, signed in 1961 by 16 of the world’s leading conservationists. The Morges Manifesto stated that while the expertise to protect the world environment existed, the financial support to achieve this protection did not, and that these conditions supported the development of a nongovernmental organization that would work to protect the world’s environment.