World Wildlife Fund pulls conservation-focused NFT project after backlash

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in the United Kingdom announced on its website that it wouldn’t continue a project designed to fund conservation work through non-fungible token (NFT) sales. 

“We thank all of those who have generously supported our conservation work by purchasing NFTs,” the WWF UK wrote. “We have now agreed with our partners to bring this trial to a close this evening (Friday 4th February). We recognise that NFTs are a much debated issue and we all have lots to learn about this new market, which is why we will now fully assess the impact of this trial and reflect on how we can best continue to innovate to engage our supporters.”

The launch was originally slated to occur on February 3. The NFTs represented 13 endangered animal species such as the giant panda, Galapagos penguin and cross river gorilla. The collection included about 7,900 NFTs, which corresponded to the actual number of living members of each species in the wild. 

The NFTs cost between 0.05 ETH (about $150) to 0.25 ETH (about $750) to mint, according to the project’s Discord, and were to be minted on Polygon, a scaling chain for the Ethereum blockchain.

However, the UK’s WWF pulled the mint early after experiencing immense user backlash. Some on Discord accused the WWF of “greenwashing this project with half truths about side chains,” citing the energy cost of “dirty ETH for NFTs.” 

Others on Twitter said, “Even if this particular arrangement was eco-friendly (it isn’t), you’re still contributing to the widespread adoption of NFT use which is literally killing the planet and the animals you’re purporting to protect.”

Some did come to the WWF UK’s defense. “Had this been a physical canvas art sale for these animals I don't think anyone would have had an issue. But because it's digital art people were attacking it on twitter because they don't like and understand crypto. I think WWF were a bit ahead of the curve here, and probably poor marketing/hype around it,” a Discord user wrote. 

This is not the first time a branch of the WWF sold NFTs to benefit conservation efforts. As The Block previously reported, WWF Germany sold NFTs corresponding to the actual numbers of endangered animals in October of 2021.