WWF Accused of Funding Guards Who Have Tortured and Murdered Villagers
7 March 2019 at 4:23 pm
An iconic wildlife charity is launching an independent review into allegations it supports anti-poaching guards in Asia and Africa who have sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered people.
An explosive report from BuzzFeed News claims the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) finances, equips, and works directly with paramilitary forces accused of committing heinous crimes against villagers living near national parks.
BuzzFeed’s year-long investigation across six countries – based on more than 100 interviews and thousands of pages of documents – found that villagers had been “attacked with machetes, beaten unconscious with bamboo sticks, sexually assaulted, shot, and murdered” by WWF-supported anti-poaching units.
EXCLUSIVE: The global conservation charity WWF funds paramilitary anti-poaching forces that have tortured and killed indigenous people in nature parks around the worldhttps://t.co/YaK1MjHhv6
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) March 4, 2019
The charity was accused of providing paramilitary forces with salaries, training, and supplies to undertake raids on villages suspected of harboring poachers.
It is also alleged WWF continued to back forest rangers even after they admitted to torturing people, and signed off on a policy to kill trespassers at a park in India.
In response to the report, the charity has commissioned London law firm Kingsley Napley to look into the allegations.
A WWF spokesperson said respect for human rights was at the core of the organisation’s mission.
“We take any allegations seriously and are commissioning an independent review to look into the cases raised in the story. We have asked BuzzFeed to share all evidence it has obtained to support these claims, to help inform and strengthen this review,” they said.
The spokesperson added that WWF had stringent policies to ensure both it and its partners were protecting the rights and wellbeing of the Indigenous people and local communities where they worked.
“Any breach of these policies is unacceptable to us and, should the review uncover any, we are committed to taking swift action,” they said.
— Mark Di Stefano 🤙🏻 (@MarkDiStef) March 4, 2019
BuzzFeed News said this was not the first time WWF had launched an independent investigation of this kind, obtaining a 2015 WWF-commissioned report which implicated the charity in violence against Indigenous people in Cameroon.
In 2017, forest rangers at a WWF-funded park in Cameroon allegedly tortured an 11-year-old boy in front of his parents. The family told BuzzFeed News the village submitted a complaint to WWF, but months later they were yet to hear back from the charity.
These reports follow claims by Survival International (SI) in 2017 that “eco-guards”, partly funded by WWF, had destroyed camps and property belonging to the Indigenous Baka people in the Cameroon rainforests.
SI submitted a formal complaint to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development for mediation, but later withdrew from the process.
WWF was founded in 1961, and has since grown to become one of the world’s largest charities, with more than 5,000 staff working in over 100 countries.
Pro Bono News contacted WWF Australia to gauge if these allegations would have any effect on the charity’s Australian work, but a spokesperson declined to add further comment.