WWF-funded paramilitary rangers fight poachers, reportedly kill and torture civilians

An activist in a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) panda bear costume attends vigil in Germany
(Image credit: Adam Berry/Getty Images)

WWF, the venerable nature-conservation group, has a darker side, BuzzFeed News reported Monday, drawing on a yearlong investigation across six countries. "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," BuzzFeed says. The documented or alleged abuses committee by WWF-funded rangers or staff includes admitted waterboarding and alleged murder in Nepal, an arms deal in Central African Republic, and extrajudicial killings in India.

"The enemy is real, and dangerous," BuzzFeed notes:

Poaching is a billion-dollar industry that terrorizes animals and threatens some species' very existence. Poachers take advantage of regions ravaged by poverty and violence. And the work of forest rangers is indeed perilous: By one 2018 estimate, poachers killed nearly 50 rangers around the world in the previous year. But like any conflict, WWF's war on poaching has civilian casualties. [BuzzFeed News]

WWF, a global nonprofit founded in 1961 and based in Switzerland, has also "assumed the role of a global spymaster in its efforts to protect wildlife," BuzzFeed reports, paying "informants" despite the risks. WWF says it is taking BuzzFeed's report seriously. "Human rights abuses are totally unacceptable and can never be justified in the name of conservation," the charity said in a statement, and it has launched an urgent "independent review" by human rights specialists "to get to the bottom of the allegations BuzzFeed has made," which "do not match our understanding of events." You can read more about specific instances and view documents at BuzzFeed News.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.