A charitable organization ignores human rights violations.Congo official hands rifle to WWF officer in Salonga National Park. WWF photo
On March 4, BuzzFeed published an article accusing the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) of gross human rights violations. Journalists said that the organization provides weapons to park guards in Asia and Africa, hiring rangers to defend against poachers, but they torture and kill members of indigenous peoples. During the year, the editors investigated WWF activities in six countries, interviewed more than 100 people, and gained access to confidential documents.
The US and British authorities demanded that investigations be initiated, and the ambassador refused to cooperate with the foundation.
Torture, murder, rape
The editors found out that Rangers working in national parks under WWF protection beat with belts, machetes, bamboo sticks, raped and killed representatives of indigenous peoples. In this way, the guards obtained information about poachers.
In 2006, in the Nepalese Chitwan National Park, the Rangers decided that a local resident helped his son hide a rhinoceros horn. They did not find the evidence, but they still arrested the man, and after nine days he died. An autopsy revealed seven broken ribs and bruises all over the body. Three rangers were arrested, but thanks to WWF staff, the Nepalese government closed the case, and the foundation declared victory in the fight against poachers. The guards denied involvement in the death of a man. Later, one of them told in his memoirs that he did not consider the interrogation of local residents as torture. In his opinion, with the help of drowning and beatings, it is much easier to find out the truth.
In 2010, in Bardia National Park, guards shot and killed two women and a 12-year-old girl when they were collecting tree bark. In 2012, a patrolman attacked a woman mowing grass in Chitvin Park. He pushed her into the bushes, ripped off her clothes and tried to rape her. She resisted, but the guard beat her with a bamboo stick until she lost consciousness. The man was arrested, but the park committee stood up for him. The woman told the publication that she had been pressured and asked not to press charges.
The editors noted that no WWF is mentioned in any case, but the organization financed anti poaching in each of the national parkswhere there were murders and attacks on civilians.
Cooperation with the military
WWF spent millions of dollars in sponsorship to fight poacher groups that operated in protected areas. For this fund attracted armed forces.
The organization provided training, salaries, and housing for the soldiers, purchased protective helmets, night vision binoculars, and weapons, including knives and batons. The foundation also donated vehicles – jeeps, trucks and boats.
According to two former employees of the park, WWF purchased food and fuel for the soldiers who participated in the fight against poaching at the height of the civil war in the CAR. A former employee of the fund said that he had personally taught the Rangers how to handle the Kalashnikov machine gun and conduct defensive combat tactics.
Raids on local residents
WWF financed raids of armed formations on villages whose inhabitants were suspected of harboring poachers. Such missions were often conducted at night with police support and violence.
The director of the Indian National Park “Kaziranga” ordered to shoot all visitors to the protected area who got there illegally. In 2017, the BBC reported that rangers killed dozens of people under his leadership, including innocent villagers.
The rules said that whenever we notice poachers, we must take weapons and track them down. First you need to introduce yourself. If they opened fire, then we had to kill them.
Network of informants
The Foundation organized and financed secret networks of informants, including among indigenous communities. Rangers paid villagers to report to their neighbors poachers. The publication noted that such tactics are risky, since the life of an informant may be in danger, and the foundation cannot protect him.
Journalists found emails and documents that pointed to the active participation of WWF in creating a network of informants. The fund paid for data on poachers and set premiums, for example, $ 170 for a seized hunting rifle. The organization paid transportation costs and paid salary to regular informants.
Local residents could not complain about the activities of WWF due to the complexity of the procedure.
The Foundation will conduct its own audit
On March 5, WWF announced that it would conduct an independent review of the evidence gathered by the publication: “We consider it our duty to understand the accusations made by BuzzFeed“. The publication noted that the foundation is not the first to conduct its own investigations; however, it has not previously found any violations and has hushed up human rights violations.
In 2015, the foundation did not publish a report on activities in Cameroon, where local people were tortured and beaten, and shifted responsibility for ill-treatment of indigenous peoples to the state. In 2018, WWF conducted an investigation into the gang rape and murder committed by guards in the Congo. Then the organization fired several employees.
US and British authorities have demanded to investigate the activities of the fund
On March 5, the UK Department for International Development, which spent millions of pounds on WWF sponsorship programs in Africa and Asia, turned to parliament. The government agency asked to find out whether the fund is directing public funds to fighters against poachers who violate human rights.
The government should hold this organization accountable. British taxpayers provided generous financial support for WWF programs in Africa, Asia and Latin America. They should know that their money is not wasted and is spent on human rights violations.
US Congressmen also asked for an investigation after the article was published. According to WWF, 1.2 out of 5 million dollars of the fund’s sponsorship funds are located in the USA. The organization also actively cooperates with federal agencies, for example, on international development.
I support anti-poaching efforts, but this should not be at the expense of the health, safety or life of innocent civilians. If the investigation is true, then WWF must do everything possible to eradicate the problems and bring the perpetrators to justice.
On the same day, the famous British traveler Ben Fogle (Ben Fogle) refused from the post of ambassador of the foundation “in the light of serious human rights allegations“. Fogle – a popular television personality, famous for expeditions to the Arctic Circle and Everest. He actively supports charitable organizations.