Secretarial: I Work For... A Panda and proud of it

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The Independent Culture
gloria dart is pa to perdita hunt, head of communications at wwf-uk, one of the uk's leading conservation charities

I used to run my own business dealing in property swaps, but I found working at home boring and lonely, so when a friend of mine asked me to volunteer to help fund raise for the NSPCC I joined her. I realised how enjoyable it was to work for a charity, and since I'm fond of nature, the WWF was an obvious place to move on to.

Even at interview stage I was immediately impressed with the WWF - everyone's commitment to their job, the environment and wildlife in general came across straightaway. I was made to feel that I was already part of WWF.

I worked for the chief executive for some time, until Perdita arrived. My first impression of her was that she seemed very aloof. I subsequently realised that she's just very determined to ensure that the things she wants to happen do happen. Having recently arrived from the Heritage Lottery Fund in London, she has great plans for the WWF and with my experience I'm able to fill her in on various aspects of the organisation.

In addition to managing her incredibly busy diary I get involved with organising conferences and seminars. This year I helped organise the launch of our annual review to which we invited Jonathon Porritt as principal speaker. I was fascinated to see how he worked. He made a few notes and then just got up and delivered a wonderful speech off the cuff.

The WWF calls itself "The Family", for despite being split into different divisions, we work very much as a team. There's great camaraderie between us. For example, if I have hundreds of invitations to send out I can always rely on my colleagues to help out.

We are also known as The Pandas, the charity having been founded 40 years ago to save the panda. The panda's image leads a lot of members to see us as a cuddly affair. While we may be animal-lovers - I, for example, love tigers and have a picture of a cub on my desk which looks so real that I feel I could touch its nose - we aren't eccentric about it. We work very hard; saving the planet isn't a nine-to-five job. There's no time for cosy chats, and I usually don't finish work until 7pm.

Although I feel sad that I can't visit the lovely tigers myself, I enjoy the sense of being part of the many WWF projects scattered around the world, even when I'm sitting in the office back at base.

When there's a major victory, chocolates and cakes are often handed around to celebrate the results of everyone's hard work. For example, we recently lobbied P&O and successfully prevented it from going ahead with a port development in India. It was a very long-drawn-out saga - P&O is a huge, multinational company - but eventually we won the day, saving an environmentally protected area from irreversible damage.

But there's still plenty of heartbreak around and whenever I see the suitcase of confiscated elephant feet and animal skins which Stuart Chapman, our International Conservation Officer, uses to illustrate his lectures on poaching, it sends a shiver down my spine.

WWF are good at keeping staff informed about their projects and the field workers' lectures are very popular. I'm particularly interested in Scotland and always attend lectures on conserving Scotland from the threat of environmental damage due to tourism or industrialisation. I think Scotland is the greatest place in the world.

Conservation is an ongoing battle, and here at WWF we do our best to contribute to keeping the planet alive using our "action at home" packs for recycling and energy-saving. My children get very worked up about the environment and since I've been here my daughter, who has helped out at the office, has decided that she wants to be a vet.

My colleagues and I also take part in conservation days, chopping and clearing choked commons or dredging ponds full of shopping trolleys. It's hard but rewarding work and has proved a good way of meeting colleagues. In my spare time I help my husband who is a musical stringed instrument restorer. I manage the accounts and the paperwork while he does the stringing.

I suppose I am always conscious of wildlife around me and I personally believe that nature should always be treated with respect, whether you are considering the rights of a great ape or a forest. I would love to visit Kenya or go on Safari and sit at a waterhole one day, but meantime I am happy to be in an office situated beside a river in a rural environment. I'm afraid that were WWF to move to London I would have to change my job.