Our history

WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre is often referred to as the birthplace of modern conservation. Our founder, Sir Peter Scott, is widely remembered as one of the fathers of modern conservation.

Peter Scott was the son of Antarctic explorer Captain Scott who, in his dying letter, urged Peter’s mother to “make the boy interested in natural history”.

Peter became an Olympic sailing medallist and a well-known painter and broadcaster. He created the IUCN red list which measures whether species are threatened or endangered. He was the founding chair of WWF – he even drew their famous panda logo.

Peter particularly loved the wild open marshes of Britain and the mysterious geese that visited from unknown shores. He started as a wildfowler and learned to protect first the birds, and then their wetland habitats.

In 1946 he set up the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge as a centre for science and conservation. Uniquely at the time, he opened it to the public so that anyone could enjoy getting close to nature.

Peter and his family presented the BBC’s first live television wildlife programmes from his artist’s studio overlooking the lakes at Slimbridge, from where he brought a love for the British countryside into millions of homes.

WWT grew from strength to strength during Peter’s life and since his death in 1989. We now welcome a million visitors each year to nine Wetland Centres in the UK, and we undertake more research and conservation projects around the world than ever.

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.