1.Buzzfeed News: WWF Funds Guards Who Have Tortured And Killed People
This was a sensitive moment for one of the globe’s most prominent charities. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) had long helped fund and equip Chitwan’s forest rangers, who patrol the area in jeeps, boats, and on elephant backs alongside soldiers from the park’s in-house army battalion. Now WWF’s partners in the war against poaching stood accused of torturing a man to death.
WWF’s staff on the ground in Nepal leaped into action — not to demand justice, but to lobby for the charges to disappear. When the Nepalese government dropped the case months later, the charity declared it a victory in the fight against poaching. Then WWF Nepal continued to work closely with the rangers and fund the park as if nothing had happened.
As for the rangers who were charged in connection with Shikharam’s death, WWF Nepal later hired one of them to work for the charity. It handed a second a special anti-poaching award. By then he had written a tell-all memoir that described one of his favorite interrogation techniques: waterboarding.
Shikharam’s alleged murder in 2006 was no isolated incident: It was part of a pattern that persists to this day. In national parks across Asia and Africa, the beloved nonprofit with the cuddly panda logo funds, equips, and works directly with paramilitary forces that have been accused of beating, torturing, sexually assaulting, and murdering scores of people. As recently as 2017, forest rangers at a WWF-funded park in Cameroon tortured an 11-year-old boy in front of his parents, the family told BuzzFeed News. Their village submitted a complaint to WWF, but months later, the family said they still hadn’t heard back.Katie J.M. Baker & Tom Warren
2. Buzzfeed News: A Leaked Report Shows WWF Was Warned Years Ago Of “Frightening” Abuses
After he delivered the report, Mwenge presented his findings in Yaoundé in front of top WWF staffers, including a senior manager from Switzerland. The meeting resulted in a series of draft recommendations, obtained by BuzzFeed News, for the charity to improve its relationship with the local community. One was to create and promote a new complaint system for locals to report forest ranger abuses; another was to thwart “corruption among eco-guards and establish harsh consequences.”
But a month after the report was filed, Lambertini, WWF’s chief executive, sent a strident letter to Survival International asserting that concerns the group had raised about indigenous rights were “most directly matters for the Government of Cameroon,” not WWF. He called the campaign group’s claims that WWF had “done nothing” for the local Baka people “untrue and insulting.”
Internal documents show WWF still supports rangers at Lobéké and continues to help park officials organize raids.Katie J.M. Baker & Tom Warren
3. Buzzfeed News: WWF Says Indigenous People Want This Park. An Internal Report Says Some Fear Forest Ranger “Repression.”
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) told its European Union funders that indigenous people were “favorable” to a new national park despite an internal report highlighting fears of “repression” by forest rangers, BuzzFeed News can reveal.
The EU agreed to send WWF 1 million euros for the proposed new park in an area of the Republic of Congo, known as Messok Dja, on the basis that it would seek the consent of indigenous people.
But omitted from a copy of a WWF filing to the EU in 2018, obtained by BuzzFeed News under Freedom of Information laws, were passages of a consultant’s confidential report that found some locals vehemently opposed the park.
Other sections of that report were copy-pasted into the EU filing — but the document does not contain sections discussing how some villagers were worried the park would drive them off their ancestral land, prevent them gathering food for their families, and subject them to mistreatment by forest rangers, known locally as “eco-guards.”Katie J.M. Baker & Tom Warren
Conservation is important. Every species that dies out makes our world less ecologically diverse and threatens to unbalance our biosphere. But human life is valuable too, and treating indigenous peoples as expendable in a war against poaching is not an acceptable course of action. I have to believe that there is a way to protect vulnerable species and vulnerable peoples at the same time.