The World Wide Fund for Nature funds vicious paramilitary forces to fight poaching. A BuzzFeed News investigation reveals the hidden human cost.
A yearlong BuzzFeed News investigation across six countries — based on more than 100 interviews and thousands of pages of documents, including confidential memos, internal budgets, and emails discussing weapons purchases — can reveal:
- Villagers have been whipped with belts, attacked with machetes, beaten unconscious with bamboo sticks, sexually assaulted, shot, and murdered by WWF-supported anti-poaching units, according to reports and documents obtained by BuzzFeed News.
- The charity’s field staff in Asia and Africa have organised anti-poaching missions with notoriously vicious shock troops, and signed off on a proposal to kill trespassers penned by a park director who presided over the killings of dozens of people.
- WWF has provided paramilitary forces with salaries, training, and supplies — including knives, night vision binoculars, riot gear, and batons — and funded raids on villages. In one African country, it embroiled itself in a botched arms deal to buy assault rifles from a brutal army that has paraded the streets with the severed heads of alleged “criminals.”
- The charity has operated like a global spymaster, organizing, financing, and running dangerous and secretive networks of informants motivated by “fear” and “revenge,” including within indigenous communities, to provide park officials with intelligence — all while publicly denying working with informants.
WWF has launched an “independent review” led by human rights specialists into the evidence uncovered by BuzzFeed News. “We see it as our urgent responsibility to get to the bottom of the allegations BuzzFeed has made, and we recognize the importance of such scrutiny,” the charity said in a statement. “With this in mind, and while many of BuzzFeed’s assertions do not match our understanding of events, we have commissioned an independent review into the matters raised.” The charity declined to answer detailed questions sent by BuzzFeed News.