The latest NFTs are endangered animals

The arm of the erstwhile conservation group that was the World Wildlife Fund in the UK pulled a “How do you do, fellow kids?”. Afterward, a special NFT drop was announced on OpenSea featuring 13 endangered species. This collection combines the NFT aesthetic you love and hate with sustainable conservation. Nevertheless, it raises some uncomfortable questions about commodifying species that are not fungible in the real world.

As a result, they are referred to as “Tokens for Nature,” a moniker seemingly aimed at causing maximum embarrassment. You can digitally own the giant panda, the Bornean elephant, and the North Atlantic right whale. These animals are available in limited numbers. Only eight North Atlantic right whales were up for grabs in the first drop. And seven of them have already been claimed. You’re best off trying to get one of the Cross River gorillas. Only 36 had been claimed at press time out of 141 tokens minted.

No replacement for endangered

In fact, this isn’t WWF’s first NFT venture. The German chapter has dropped a series of Non-Fungible Animals. The number of which is dependent on the number of these creatures left in the wild. WWF Germany helpfully notes on the page announcing the drop that the limited edition NFTs. That can sell out quickly, so you better create a wallet by now in order to get one.

That’s true, in a way. Any species that is endangered – or any species, for that matter – is non-fungible. You can’t replace a house cat with a Javan rhinoceros and expect the ecosystem to survive. Only a few dozen vaquitas remain on earth, making them the most endangered cetacean in the world. They are being killed by fishing (where they are caught as bycatch) and pollution from agricultural runoff. Sadly, these Amazonian river dolphins cannot be replaced once they die out.

No financial problem so why do it?

Turning these endangered creatures into digital assets and slapping them into a frothy market is, on the other hand, a choice. By tokenizing some of the world’s rarest animals, WWF-UK has created a highly speculative market where rare animals are sold. Essentially, it is a digital version of the illicit wildlife trade, something the WWF strongly opposes. Those very species WWF is hawking digitally have been placed at risk of extinction due to the very idea that nature is a commodity to be bought, chopped up, and sold for parts in the first place. The WWF had global operating revenue of over $454 million in 2021. Therefore, it is not in financial trouble.

Twitter had a rapid response to the project, not surprising. Since the crescendo of anger, WWF-UK has not tweeted, and its Discord server is no longer operational.

Limited time test of WWF

The WWF-UK says it is always finding new ways to engage fundraisers and supporters and experimenting with new ideas, it said in an emailed statement. “This is a hugely expanding area that many other organizations and some charities are already operating in, and we are keen to build up our knowledge. We know that NFTs are a much-debated issue and that this is an untested market, which is why this was planned as a very small, time-limited test of 13 NFTs, built on Polygon which has a negligible environmental impact.”

As a sidechain to Ethereum, Polygon is claimed to have negligible environmental and e-waste impacts. Similarly, WWF-UK has not responded to questions regarding the Discord server and whether it views participating in a highly speculative market for conservation purposes as problematic.

Leave a Comment