Our history

Since the 1940s, we have been dedicated to protecting wetlands and saving wetland species. It’s in our DNA.

Our vision - to create a world where healthy wetland nature thrives and enriches lives, draws heavily on our storied legacy of conservation. This heritage is why WWT is known as the birthplace of modern conservation.

In 1946 we were established by Sir Peter Scott, a man described by Sir David Attenborough as “the patron saint of conservation”.

Today, conservation science has proven what our founder had always known. Wetlands are wondrous places. Powerful weapons of mass creation with the potential to save species from extinction, tackle climate change, and improve people’s lives. That’s why we’re on a mission to restore wetlands and unlock their power – and empower everyone to do just the same. To be that beacon of hope and optimism as Sir Peter set out to do more than 75 years ago.

More on our strategy

WWT landmarks


Peter Scott opens Slimbridge, the first of nine WWT Wetland Centres across the UK.


The first Slimbridge-reared nene is released into the wild in Hawaii marking the start of the recovery of the world nene population, which had fallen to just 30. The world population is now over 2,000.


Plans to build a dam at the main area for breeding pink-footed geese in Thjorsarver, Iceland are dropped after successful lobbying by WWT.


Sir Peter Scott is knighted for his services to conservation.


WWT's Martin Mere Wetland Centre is designated a Ramsar site for the international importance of the wildlife there – the Centre enables people from towns and cities in the North West of England to experience the special wildlife up close.


The main white-headed duck wintering site at Burdur Golu, Turkey is formally protected following a collaborative study initiated by WWT.


The long-term protection of barnacle geese at Caerlaverock by WWT and others enables the Svalbard barnacle goose population to reach 25,000 after dropping to just 300 in 1948.


The WWT London Wetland Centre is opened. It provides an oasis for wildlife and a place of tranquillity for people in the heart of London's suburbs.


Carmarthen Bay is declared the UK's first marine Special Protection Area after WWT surveys show its importance for common scoters.


The Laysan teal, one of the most endangered species of duck in the world, is reintroduced to Hawaii with the help of WWT.


WWT opens a new eco-friendly £3.5 million visitor centre at Welney to bring communities across the East of England close to the thousands of migratory birds who share the Fens with them.


WWT brings Madagascar pochards into captivity to prevent imminent extinction (just 25 remain in the wild). There are now 50 in the breeding programme and we're rehabilitating a potential release site.


The Great Crane Project successfully hand-rears and releases 21 Eurasian cranes into the wild in England. The species has been absent in the UK for 400 years.


A three-year project begins to give help 60,000 UK schoolchildren connect with nature by providing schools in disadvantaged areas with free learning experiences at WWT Wetland Centres.


WWT's aviculturists hand-rear 16 spoon-billed sandpiper chicks in northern Russia, which boosts the global number of fledglings by a quarter. In case they don't make it, a small reserve flock is being raised at Slimbridge.


Steart Marshes, a created tidal wetland, is completed as the sea wall is breached and tide covers the land for the first time in over a hundred years. The site was built to protect local communities from flooding, store carbon and provide a home for wetland wildlife.


The historic Flight of the Swans Expedition takes place from September to December, following Sacha Dench as she paramotors the migration route of the Bewick’s swan to raise awareness of the challenges they face.


WWT gives evidence to MPs on flood prevention using wetlands as part of the Blueprint for Water coalition, gaining greater recognition of this nature based solution.


WWT becomes a formal partner of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands’ CEPA programme, committing to communicate the benefits of wetlands worldwide on the global stage.


An innovative, Chelsea Flower Show award-winning rain garden is installed at Martin Mere.


Sir David Attenborough launches the Big Butterfly Count at London Wetland Centre.


In Madagascar, WWT and Durrell reintroduced one of the world’s rarest birds, the Madagascar pochard, into the wild for the first time. 21 ducklings were released in a special floating aviary.


Crane breeding pairs hit 54, their highest numbers in years, as the Great Crane Project is declared a resounding success so far.


WWT launch a wetland home learning programme and other digital experiences to support members during lockdown.


Lead ammunition is banned in EU wetlands following an evidence and comms campaign by WWT and partners.


WWT launch its Blue Recovery strategy and its first ever national awareness campaign, Wetlands Can!


Our new strategy to 2030 is launched, Wetlands are the way. Setting out how we’re going to turn our ambitions into action – with the urgency today’s world demands.