Pro-Big Oil thugs threaten environmentalists’ lives in Congo

This video from Congo says about itself:

Virunga National Park: Oil, Conservation and Sustainable Development

13 March 2014

These local stories were filmed in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is a five part series of films dealing with oil exploration in Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and its potential environmental and human rights impact.

These films are intended to give a voice to local communities living in and around Virunga National Park. It is their voice, their fears and feelings about the oil developments in North Kivu.

“Virunga National Park: Oil, Conservation and Sustainable Development” highlights the value of the park and the challenges it faces. The oil developments planned in Block V have the potential to affect negatively the livelihoods of millions of persons and the long-term survival of the park.

After the collusion between Shell and other Big Oil corporations with violent gangs against environmentalists in Nigeria … the collusion of Shell with violent thugs against environmentalists in Ireland … now Congo.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

WWF Virunga campaigners ‘receive death threats’

Tuesday 13th May 2014

THE World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warned yesterday night that it had received “death threats” against staff fighting oil exploration in a Democratic Republic of Congo nature park.

“Unidentified callers have threatened two employees working in Goma,” a spokesman said.

WWF team members have been trying to block oil exploration by British company Soco International in Virunga National Park. The park is home to endangered mountain gorillas.

The organisation said there had been an increase in intimidating calls, text messages and notes since park director Emmanuel de Merode was shot in April.

“The callers said they had missed killing De Merode but would not miss WWF employees,” the spokesman said.

“WWF insists that DRC authorities bring the perpetrators of these threats to justice.”

There has been mounting worldwide opposition to oil exploration in Virunga.

Unesco says exploration would breach international conventions but fears laws could be changed by the government to allow oil concessions to be exploited.

The UK oil exploration company SOCO has agreed to withdraw from Virunga National Park, a World Heritage site in the Democratic Republic of Congo, following pressure from environmental campaigners: here.

Stop wildlife crime, videos

This WWF video is called Stop Wildlife Crime: The Series | Official Trailer.

And this video is called Stop Wildlife Crime: The Series | Trailer.

International wildlife crime, new report

This video from the USA says about itself:

Feb 14, 2010

Some of the Roborovski hamsters that Critter Camp Exotic Pet Sanctuary took in from the raid on US Global Exotics due to horrific conditions. It was the largest seizure of animals in US history.

Texas SPCA confiscated 27,000 exotic animals in December after the exotic animal distribution center was raided for numerous violations. Once the SPCA was awarded permanent custody of the animals they placed them with only 30 select sanctuaries and zoos throughout the country.

Critter Camp is proud and honored to have received 75 of these precious animals. They are receiving the finest of care here at their new home! Learn more here.

From Wildlife Extra:

$19 billion per year illegal wildlife trade threatens national security, says WWF

Illegal wildlife trade fuels poverty, terrorism, corruption and conflict

December 2012. Perceived by organized criminals to be high profit and low risk, the illicit trade in wildlife is worth at least US$ 19 billion per year, making it the fourth largest illegal global trade after narcotics, counterfeiting, and human trafficking, according to a new report commissioned by WWF.

Danger to wildlife, health and national security

Besides driving many endangered species towards extinction, illegal wildlife trade strengthens criminal networks, undermines national security, and poses increasing risks to global health, according to the report, Fighting illicit wildlife trafficking: A consultation with governments, which will be unveiled today at a briefing for United Nations ambassadors in New York.

Wildlife crime has escalated alarmingly in the past decade. It is driven by global crime syndicates, and so we need a concentrated global response,” says Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International.


“It is communities, often the world’s poorest, that lose the most from this illicit trade, while criminal gangs and corrupt officials profit. Frontline rangers are losing their lives and families that depend on natural resources are losing their livelihoods,” he said.

Terrorism and gun running

Much of the trade in illegal wildlife products is run by sophisticated criminal networks with broad international reach. The profits from wildlife trafficking are used to purchase weapons, finance civil conflicts and underwrite terrorist-related activities, the report finds.

The involvement of organized crime syndicates and rebel groups in wildlife crimes is increasing, according to interviews with governments and international organizations conducted by global advisory group Dalberg on behalf of WWF.

Report respondents agree that the absence of credible law enforcement, prosecution, penalties and other deterrents to wildlife trafficking reduces the perceived risks for criminal groups. They also say that consumer demand is exacerbated by the increased accessibility of illegal wildlife products through the internet.

“The demand for illegal wildlife products has risen in step with economic growth in consumer countries, and with the ‘easy money’ and high profits to be made from trafficking, organized criminals have seized the opportunity to profit,” said Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

Report interviewees stressed that illegal wildlife trade is almost always seen by governments as exclusively an environmental problem and is not treated as a transnational crime and justice issue.

“Governments need to address wildlife crime as a matter of urgency,” Leape said. “It is not just a matter of environmental protection, but also of national security. It is time to put a stop to this profound threat to the rule of law.”

Government officials say that a systematic approach is needed to fight illicit wildlife trafficking including greater resourcing, inter-ministerial cooperation, and the use of modern intelligence-led investigative techniques to identify and prosecute wildlife criminals.

Finally, governments and non-governmental organizations have an important role in holding countries publicly accountable for delivering on their international commitments, the report says. The Elephant Trade Information System, executed by TRAFFIC, and the recent WWF Wildlife Crime Scorecard provide examples of reporting initiatives that highlight countries failing to uphold their commitments.

See also here.

December 2012-Consumers buying pets should be aware of a new phenomenon, whereby the animals on sale are actually illegally sourced from the wild rather than legally captive bred: here.

Wildlife crime whistleblower gets WWF medal

This video from Kenya says about itself:

Live Operation on Poached Elephant in Galana Ranch, May 2011

Live commentary of Dr Paula Kahumbu on Kenya Wildlife Services veterinarians on site at an ultra delicate surgical operation on a shot elephant in Galana Ranch.

From Wildlife Extra:

Wildlife crime whistleblower wins top WWF honour

Champion wildlife crime opponent awarded top WWF honours

October 2012. Ofir Drori, a tireless anti-corruption whistleblower and law enforcement activist working on the frontlines of endangered wildlife protection in West and Central Africa, has been awarded the 2012 WWF Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal.

Congratulations to Mr Drori and his much-needed fight against wildlife crime!

However, it is a problem that this medal is called after the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, Prince Consort of Queen Elizabeth II of England. Prince Philip is a vocal fox hunting supporter. As the medal is for work in Africa, Prince Philip’s racist remarks are hardly appropriate.

The WWF in Spain decided to strip the elephant-shooting King of Spain of his honorary chairmanship. How about Britain?

I am not the only person with this kind of objections to the medal’s name, as we will see.

Israeli educator, photojournalist and activist Drori, 36, arrived in Cameroon a decade ago where he founded the Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA), the first wildlife law enforcement non-governmental organization in Africa. Within seven months, LAGA had brought about Cameroon’s first wildlife crime prosecution, providing a model that is now being replicated in West and Central Africa. Drori is also founder-director of the Central Africa Wildlife Law Enforcement Network.

“I am delighted to accept the WWF Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal – a great honour that will truly support our work to fight wildlife crime in West and Central Africa and beyond,” Ofir Drori said. “I hope this award also inspires a shift to a more activist approach and bolsters the fight against corruption in our quest to save wildlife – while there are still magnificent elephants and other animals left to save.”

Promoting wildlife law enforcement by combating corruption at all levels, LAGA enabled a shift in Cameroon’s judicial system resulting in arrests and prosecution of major wildlife criminals. The LAGA anti-corruption success story has been replicated in West and Central Africa in activities that go beyond nature conservation to the defence of human rights.

Wildlife poaching and organized criminal trade

Wildlife poaching and organized criminal trade in wildlife have escalated dramatically in recent years and are now the greatest threats to many of WWF’s flagship species. Ofir Drori’s efforts have resulted in hundreds of arrests and prosecutions across West and Central Africa, and helped propagate a zero tolerance approach to illegal wildlife trafficking in Cameroon.

“It is thanks to people like Ofir Drori that we still have a hope of keeping vulnerable elephant and other wildlife populations thriving – and keeping a spotlight on the poaching crisis that threatens them. I applaud his bold and impactful work,” said Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International. “WWF urges world governments to crack down on wildlife poaching and illegal trade as a matter of urgency.”

WWF is taking action to combat wildlife crime and works with countries where poaching occurs, where illegal trade transits and in consumer countries to stop wildlife crime – by strengthening law enforcement, combating corruption, getting illegal wildlife trade recognised as a serious crime, and reducing demand for endangered species products.

The Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal was first given in 1970 and is awarded annually by WWF for outstanding service to the environment. Ofir Drori joins a long line of conservation leaders to receive the award – including the 2011 winner, Dr Ashok Khosla, one of the world’s foremost sustainable development experts. Mr. Drori receives his award today in a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London.

A comment on this on the Wildlife Extra site says:

what a great shame that philip d.o.e. [Duke of Edinburgh] and his family of hunt supporters will never measure up to this young man with his genuine concern for wildlife protection

Posted by: dee donworth | 06 Nov 2012 13:08:55

Stopping tiger poaching in Russia

This 2016 video is called Protecting the Siberian Tiger‘s Last Home.

From Wildlife Extra:

Russia to clamp down on wildlife crime

Kremlin boosts protection for tigers

October 2012. Trade, transportation and possession of endangered species will all be considered crimes under new legislation proposed by the Kremlin, following discussions with WWF.

Tiger hunting is probably the biggest factor in the decline of tigers this century which has seen the world has lost 97 per cent of its wild tigers, including four sub-species to extinction. There may be as few as 3,200 of the endangered animals remaining. But until now, law in the Russian Federation, home to many of the world’s remaining tigers, only considered the actual killing of an animal to be a crime. Poachers who are stopped carrying the animals or their parts claim they found them dead.

“It is a significant step towards protection of tigers and other endangered species threatened by trade and poaching,” said Igor Chestin, CEO of WWF Russia who was heavily involved in discussions with the government. Russia has agreed for its Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to prepare the draft law in cooperation with WWF.

Tiger skins

Recently one man was found in possession of the remains of six tigers, another one with eight tiger skins. Under the current law they only might be eligible for an insignificant fine.

WWF and its partner TRAFFIC, the wildlife monitoring network, are campaigning for greater protection of threatened species such as rhinos, tigers and elephants. Demand for ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts from consumer markets in Asia is driving wild populations dangerously close to extinction. WWF is calling on governments to combat illegal wildlife trade and reduce demand for illicit endangered species products.

“Trade, transportation and possession of endangered species becoming a crime is a long-awaited measure that we believe will dramatically reduce poaching,” Chestin said.

Tiger habitat protection

WWF is also happy to see steps being made towards more protection for tiger habitats. The Primorsky region, where 90% of the Russian tigers live, was requested to ensure no commercial timber harvest takes place in the regional protected areas and nut harvesting zones. Regional administration was also ordered to prevent any commercial logging in upper and middle stream of the Bikin River.

Amur tigers

By the 1940s, hunting had driven the Amur tiger to the brink of extinction-with no more than 40 individuals remaining in the wild. The subspecies was saved when Russia became the first country in the world to grant the tiger full protection.

By the 1980s, the Amur tiger population had increased to around 500. Continued conservation and antipoaching efforts by many partners-including WWF-have helped keep the population stable at around 400 individuals. In 2010, the Russian Government adopted the Strategy for Tiger Conservation, making commitments to double the number of wild tigers by 2022 and to stiffen punishment for those caught smuggling tiger products.

Camera traps are typically used to capture images of endangered species for conservation purposes. But in a bid to increase anti-poaching efforts, special camera traps will be camouflaged and hidden in Russian forests to record illegal entry by would-be poachers: here.

US corporation threatens Cameroon biodiversity

This video is called Wildlife Crime and the Elephants of Cameroon.

From the WWF:

Cameroon biodiversity hotspot in grave danger as palm oil conglomerate quits sustainability group

5 September 2012

Yaounde, Cameroon: Sustainable palm oil development and a key biodiversity hotspot in Cameroon are under increased threat as the developer of a controversial 70,000 hectare palm oil plantation quits the key organization setting environmental and social sustainability standards in the global industry, WWF warned today.

WWF was one of a number of complainants to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) that US-based Herakles Farms had not adequately followed RSPO guidelines on new plantings designed to protect high conservation value forest and community interests. The RSPO had asked Herakles to suspend clearing while discussions concluded on the outstanding issues with WWF-Cameroon and the other 7 complainants.

Herakles’ decision to quit RSPO – announced yesterday by the RSPO – means that the 70,000 hectare plantation proposal for areas of high conservation value forest surrounded by national parks and forest reserves is no longer subject to the restraints and protections offered by the only globally agreed standard for the sustainable production of palm oil that is independently monitored and supported by global markets.

WWF and the other complainants had been seeking for Herakles to carry out an adequate High Conservation Value Assessment of the entire 70,000 hectare concession area before development started, as well as asking the company to address other issues including ensuring the respect for land tenure rights, the implementation of the free, prior and informed consent process and transparent communications with stakeholders.

“This is a very sad day for Cameroon,” said BasileYapo, Country Director of WWF Cameroon.

“WWF believes that sustainable palm oil can be a reality in Cameroon but only if it is produced by responsible companies according to RSPO principles and criteria, supported by sustainable land use policies and involving local communities.

“It is clear that the Herakles project will likely fall short of these standards. Given the rapid pace and scale of palm oil development in West Africa, it is critically important that the governments in the region put in place vital safeguards to insure that these projects are sustainable,” he added.

WWF is calling on investors to steer clear of any palm oil development by irresponsible companies in Cameroon and other frontier regions.

“Forests in the green heart of Africa are vulnerable targets for expansion, as palm oil companies look beyond Indonesia and Malaysia for new land to expand palm oil production,” said Adam Harrison, WWF International’s representative on the RSPO Executive Board.

“WWF calls on investors to support only RSPO members who actively adhere to RSPO principles. Investors should also encourage development on degraded land in order to avoid further negative impacts by the palm oil business on forests, species and people.”

WWF sacks elephant-killing Spanish king

This video is called Spain’s Juan Carlos under fire. Warning: this clip contains some shots of bullfights.

From the Irish Times:

Spanish king loses WWF title

The Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund has ousted King Juan Carlos as its honorary president – a title he had held since 1968 – because his recent elephant hunting safari was incompatible with the group’s goal of conserving endangered species.

The animal charity said in a statement that “although such hunting is legal and regulated”, it had “received many expressions of distress from its members and society in general”.

It said members voted in a meeting in Madrid today to “get rid of the honorary president”.

News of the king’s elephant hunting trip in Botswana in April upset many Spaniards who considered it an opulent extravagance at a time of economic distress in the country.

The Spanish royal palace declined to comment on the WWF announcement.


WWF members voted “to get rid of the honorary president” by a majority of 226 votes to 13: here.

WWF conservation within capitalism with a human face?

This is a satiric video about greenwashing.

There is a conflict between capitalism on the one hand and sustainable ecology and wildlife conservation on the other hand.

While we don’t have a long-term solution of that conflict yet, pro-conservation forces in the short-term, when they are not yet strong enough, will have to compromise sometimes.

One should not say: “I will only protect that nature reserve together with you, if you first swear that you agree with every letter and every dot in the collected works of Karl Marx”.

Or: “I will only fight to prevent that bird species from becoming extinct together with you, if you will have first sworn allegiance to all the collected works of Michael Bakunin.”

There are quite some people who want to help to save wildlife, but are not sure about the role of capitalism in this. Or who, like the character Clementine in Herman Heijermans’ play on the fishing industry, may believe in “capitalism with a human face”, with some gradual reforms removing the bad sides of capitalism.

It would be dogmatism to say one should never work with those kinds of people.

However, if I watch beautiful films on wildlife conservation, and in the film show is an advertisement for polluting Ford Motors … or for a polluting French bank or a polluting French Big Oil corporation … then I think that compromise has gone too far. Conservationists should not become complicit in corporate greenwashing.

One of the biggest, maybe the biggest, conservation organization in the world, the WWF, raises some questions. Sometimes, the WWF seems not to keep enough distance from the blue-blooded and/or moneyed aristocracies.

One of its founders, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, had a history of killing many elephants in Africa, pheasants in the Netherlands, and other animals.

More recently, the kings of Spain and Sweden, both WWF officials, embarrassed the organization by killing African elephants, and killing moose and advocating killing wolves, respectively.

Der Spiegel weekly in Germany reports:


Green Veneer WWF Helps Industry More than Environment

By Jens Glüsing and Nils Klawitter

The WWF is the most powerful environmental organization in the world and campaigns internationally on issues such as saving tigers and rain forests. But a closer look at its work leads to a sobering conclusion: Many of its activities benefit industry more than the environment or endangered species.

Want to protect the rainforest? All it takes is €5 ($6.30) to get started. Save the gorillas? Three euros and you’re in. You can even do your part for nature with only 50 cents — as long as you entrust it to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which is still known by its original name of the World Wildlife Fund in the United States and Canada.

Last year, the WWF, together with German retail group Rewe, sold almost 2 million collectors’ albums. In only six weeks, the program raised €875,088 ($1.1 million), which Rewe turned over to the WWF.

The WWF has promised to do a lot of good things with the money, like spending it on forests, gorillas, water, the climate — and, of course, the animal the environmental protection group uses as its emblem, the giant panda.

Governments also entrust a lot of money to the organization. Over the years, the WWF has received a total of $120 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). For a long time, German government ministries were so generous to the organization that the WWF even decided, in the 1990s, to limit the amount of government funding it could receive. The organization was anxious not to be seen as merely an extension of government environmental protection agencies.

Illusion of Aid

But can the WWF truly protect nature against human beings? Or do the organization’s attractive posters merely offer the illusion of help? Fifty years after the organization was founded, there are growing doubts as to the independence of the WWF and its business model, which involves partnering with industry to protect nature.

The WWF, whose international headquarters are located in Gland, Switzerland, is seen as the world’s most powerful conservation organization. It is active in more than 100 countries, where it enjoys close connections to the rich and the powerful. Its trademark panda emblem appears on Danone yoghurt cups and the clothing of jetsetters like Princess Charlene of Monaco. Companies pay seven-figure fees for the privilege of using the logo. The WWF counts 430,000 members in Germany alone, and millions of people give their savings to the organization. The question is how sustainably this money is actually being invested.

SPIEGEL traveled around South America and the Indonesian island of Sumatra to address this question. In Brazil, an agricultural industry executive talked about the first shipload of sustainable soybeans, certified in accordance with WWF standards, to reach Rotterdam last year, amid a flurry of PR hype. The executive had to admit, however, that he wasn’t entirely sure where the shipment had come from. In Sumatra, members of a tribal group reported how troops hired by WWF partner Wilmar had destroyed their houses, because they had stood in the way of unfettered palm oil production.

Inconvenient for Some

Representatives of independent German non-governmental organizations like Rettet den Regenwald (Rainforest Rescue) and Robin Wood also no longer see the aid organization as merely a custodian of animals. Instead, many view the WWF as an accomplice of corporations. In their opinion, it grants those corporations a license to destroy nature, in return for large donations and small concessions.

The organization, which now takes in about €500 million a year, has certainly notched up some important achievements. The Dutch section of WWF helped pay for Greenpeace’s flagship, the Rainbow Warrior. To prevent dam projects on the Danube and Loire Rivers, activists occupied large construction sites, sometimes for years. In the 1980s, the Swiss section fought so vehemently against nuclear energy that the federal police classified its managing director as an enemy of the state.

While the WWF can be very inconvenient for some, it can also be quick to cozy up to others. The organization’s managers typically react with irritation to criticism of its cooperative efforts. Last year, a film made by Germany’s WDR television network, “The Pact with the Panda,” reached devastating conclusions about the WWF’s work. German author Wilfried Huismann held the conservationists partly responsible for increasing the threat to the rainforest — a charge the WWF vehemently denies.

The film was “inaccurately researched” or even “deliberately false,” says Martina Fleckenstein, who has been a biologist with the WWF for the last 20 years. She works in Berlin, where she heads the WWF’s Agriculture Policy section. Hardly any meetings with industry take place without her, and she is a queen of compromise. Nevertheless, after the film was released, the WWF was flooded with protest emails, and more than 3,000 supporters cancelled their memberships. The conservation organization had never experienced such a bloodletting before.

Of Tigers and People

The animal used in the WWF’s logo is a cute and cuddly-looking creature, threatened with extinction because of its very low birthrate. But the panda does not elicit our emotions as much as great apes or big cats, which are more effective at drumming up donations. In 2010, the WWF took its cue from the Chinese calendar and proclaimed the “Year of the Tiger.”

The WWF has pursued its tiger mission for a long time. In the early 1970s, with the help of a large donation, it convinced the Indian government under then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to identify protected areas for the threatened big cats. According to Indian estimates, there were more than 4,000 tigers living in the country at the time. Today that number has dwindled to 1,700. Nevertheless, the WWF sees the Indian tiger program as a success. Without its efforts, says a spokesman, India’s tigers could “quite possibly be extinct by now.”

Less widely publicized is the fact that people were displaced to achieve this success. Villages were “resettled, but not against their will,” says Claude Martin, a Swiss national who was general director of WWF International from 1993 to 2005. “We were always convinced that this issue was handled properly.” But there are even doubts about that.

About 300,000 families had to leave their homes to create a conservation zone for wild animals, writes Mark Dowie in his book “Conservation Refugees.” According to Dowie, the displacement was the result of a concept called “fortress conservation,” which the WWF has always proclaimed as one of its policies. There is no room for human beings in these conservation zones, writes Dowie. The WWF says that it is opposed to forced relocation. But Bernhard Grzimek, a German TV zoologist and long-standing member of the WWF board of directors, also advocated the concept of national parks with no human presence in them. The WWF was established in 1961, following his successful film “Serengeti Shall Not Die”.

Conservation Refugees

The Swiss founders and the German zoologist were united by a mixture of conservation and neo-colonialism. This legacy also includes the forced displacement of the Massai nomads from the Serengeti.

Experts estimate that in Africa alone, conservation efforts have created 14 million “conservation refugees” since the colonial era. In this model, some of the indigenous people, if they were lucky enough, could work as park wardens, preventing their relatives from entering the protected zones.

The Tesso Nilo National Park is one of those typical conservation zones promoted by the WWF. Martina Fleckenstein describes it as “a successful project for protecting tigers and elephants.” The area is in the heart of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The WWF office in the city of Pekanbaru manages the project.

“Save His Habitat,” reads a German tiger poster in the Pekanbaru office, which is funded with German WWF money. German TV talk show host Sandra Maischberger conducted a campaign to raise money for the last 500 Sumatra tigers. Many of them supposedly live in the Tesso Nilo, only a few hours from the WWF office.

Sunarto is a biologist who has long worked as a tiger researcher in the Tesso Nilo. But he has never seen a tiger there. “Tiger density is very low here, because of human economic activity,” says Sunarto, who like some Indonesians goes by only one name. He also points out that there are still some woodland clearing concessions within the conservation area.

To enable them to track down tigers, the WWF has provided the scientists with high-tech measuring equipment, including GPS devices, DNA analysis methods for tiger dung and 20 photo traps. During the last photography shoot, which lasted several weeks, the traps only photographed five tigers.

Off-Limits for Locals

The WWF sees its work in Sumatra as an important achievement, arguing that the rainforest in the Tesso Nilo was successfully saved as a result of a “fire department approach.” In reality, the conservation zone has grown while the forest inside has become smaller. Companies like Asia Pacific Resources International, with which the WWF previously had a cooperative arrangement, cut down the virgin forest, says Sunarto.

His colleague Ruswantu takes affluent eco-tourists on tours of the park on the backs of tamed elephants. The area is off-limits for the locals, and anti-poaching units funded by the Germans make sure that they stay out. “The WWF is in charge here, and that’s a problem,” says Bahri, who owns a tiny shop and lives in a village near the entrance to the park. No one knows where the borders are, he says. “We used to have small fields of rubber trees, and suddenly we were no longer allowed to go there.”

Feri, an environmental activist, calls this form of conservation “racist and neocolonial,” and notes: “There has never been forest without people here.” According to Feri, thousands of small farms were driven out of the Tesso Nilo, and yet the number of wild animals has actually declined since the conservationists arrived. “Tesso Nilo is not an isolated case,” he says.

Nowadays, multinational companies and conservationists work hand-in-hand. “The WWF is involved in the transformation of our world into plantations, monoculture and national parks,” says Feri, who supports the Indonesian environmental protection organization Walhi.

Part 2: The Palm Oil Business

According to a map hanging in the office of tiger conservationist Sunarto, which shows the extent of clear-cutting on Sumatra, the world’s sixth-largest island, enough wood to cover 88 soccer fields is cut down every hour — mostly to make way for palm oil plantations.

Indonesia is thriving as a result of a boom in palm oil. The Southeast Asian nation accounts for 48 percent of global production. The multifunctional oil is used in biodiesel, food products like Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread, shampoo and skin lotion. But the heavy use of pesticides on the monocultures is polluting rivers and ground water. Slash-and-burn agriculture has turned Indonesia into one of the world’s largest emitters of CO2.

Despite claims of sustainability, many companies continue to deforest the area. A concession costs about $30,000 in bribes or campaign contributions, reports a former WWF employee who worked in Indonesia for a long time. “Sustainable palm oil, as the WWF promises with its RSPO certificates, is really nonexistent,” he says.

RSPO stands for Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. The certificate makes it possible to crank up production while simultaneously placating the consciences of customers. Henkel, the Düsseldorf-based consumer products company, advertises its Terra range of household cleaning products with the claim that it supports “the sustainable production of palm and palm kernel oil, together with the WWF.”

Second-Class Rainforest

In doing so, the company claims, it is making “a contribution to protect the rainforest.” But how exactly is the forest being protected if it has to be cut down first?

The WWF argues that some areas are “degraded” terrain, that is, second-class forest and wasteland. It insists that plantation monocultures and conservation are not contradictory ideas. The WWF calls this approach “market transformation.” It embodies the belief that more can be achieved with cooperation than confrontation.

The organization launched the RSPO initiative in 2004, together with companies like Unilever, which processes 1.3 million tons of palm oil a year, making it one of the world’s largest palm oil processors. Another company involved is Wilmar, one of the world’s major palm oil producers.

Wilmar has completed “a transformation,” says the WWF’s Fleckenstein. She points out that the company has a clear schedule for certification, and that social criteria are taken into account.

‘Then They Started Shooting’

The indigenous people with the Batin Sembilan tribe haven’t seen much evidence of that. They live in the middle of Wilmar’s Asiatic Persada plantation, south of the city of Jambi. At 40,000 hectares (99,000 acres), it is about half the size of Berlin, and it is scheduled to be RSPO-certified by the German certification agency TÜV Rheinland. Someone has scrawled “bloodsuckers” at one of the plantation entrances.

Roni, the village elder, is standing in the midst of the oil palms with several dozen people. Many are barefoot, and one is carrying a spear that he uses to hunt wild boar. Crushed wooden slats litter the ground behind him, where the tribe’s village once stood.

On Aug. 10 of last year, the notorious Brimob police brigade destroyed the houses. Before the incident, a village resident had tried to sell palm fruits that Wilmar claims it owns.

“They arrested 18 people early in the morning, and some they beat up,” reports Roni. “Wilmar managers collaborated with Brimob. Then they started shooting, and we took the women and children and ran into the forest.” The villagers see the forest as their forest. “We have been living here since the days of our ancestors,” says Roni.

The loggers came in the 1970s, but there was enough forest into which Roni’s tribe could move. But now his people are surrounded by palm trees. The company that preceded Wilmar illegally planted 20,000 hectares, or about half the plantation. This doesn’t seem to bother Wilmar. Roni even has attested rights for his tribe, but it hasn’t helped them.

‘Wrongful Activities’

After the destruction of the village, organizations like Rettet den Regenwald and Robin Wood claimed that Rama margarine, which is made by Unilever, a customer of Wilmar, was tainted with the blood of indigenous people. Some of them even camped out in front of the German Unilever headquarters in December.

This, in turn, was not well received at Unilever, a Dutch-British company which ranks at the top of sustainability indices and has the stated goal of helping more than 1 billion people improve their health and quality of life.

Wilmar could not deny that huts were destroyed and shots were fired. But in a letter to customers and friends (including WWF partners like palm-oil financier HSBC), company executives downplayed the issue.

From Wilmar’s perspective, a socially oriented company had become the target of the dirty tricks of a few hooligans. In an internal email, Unilever at least admitted that there had been “wrongful activities” and suggested that there would be a “mediation process.” But the police campaign did not adversely affect Unilever’s business relationship with Wilmar. The palm oil giant has since erected temporary housing and agreed to pay compensation.

Many of the indigenous families fled from the Brimob thugs to nearby PT Reki, one of the last semi-intact forests in the region. But they were not allowed to stay there either, because the area is the site of a reforestation project funded by Germany’s KfW development bank and the German environmental organization Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU).

Founders, Benefactors and Big Game Hunters

The WWF headquarters in Gland near Geneva seems solidly green and respectable. Silver plaques there commemorate the people to whom the organization owes a great debt: the “Members of The 1001.” This elite group of undisclosed financiers was created in 1971 to provide financial backing for the organization.

To this day, the WWF does not like to disclose the names of the donors, probably because some of those appearing on the club’s list would not exactly help their image — people like arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi and former Zairian dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

Then-WWF President Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands was able to recruit oil multinational Shell as his first major sponsor. In 1967, thousands of birds died after a tanker accident off the coast of France, and yet the WWF forbade all criticism. That could “jeopardize” future efforts to secure donations from certain industrial sectors, WWF officials said during a board meeting.

In the late 1980s, alleged poachers turned up in certain African national parks, which had been set up by whites during the colonial period. The WWF decided to fight back. The organization paid for helicopters to be used by the national park administration of Zimbabwe to hunt down poachers. Dozens of people were killed during the missions.

Still Welcome

In a secret operation, big game hunter Prince Bernhard and John Hanks, the WWF’s Africa director, hired mercenaries to break up the illegal trade in rhinoceros horn. But members of the South African military, seen as the biggest horn dealers at the time, infiltrated the group.

All of this happened a long time ago, says WWF spokesman Phil Dickie, noting that the organization has changed and no longer accepts money from the oil, nuclear, tobacco or arms industry. Still, no one is excluded. Representatives of these industries, for example oil multinational BP, are still welcome on the WWF boards.

John Hanks, still a member of the board of trustees, is in charge of giant cross-border nature parks in Africa today. The projects are called Peace Parks, and yet they are responsible for a great deal of strife. The German government donated about €200,000 to the WWF for so-called Peace Park dialogues in South Africa. One of the outcomes was that corridors were necessary for the Peace Parks — as was the relocation of local residents, who are putting up a fight.

Germany’s KfW development agency is even prepared to contribute €20 million for new corridors at the Kaza national park, another major WWF project. “For each euro from the WWF, at least five more are provided by governments,” estimates WWF’s Martina Fleckenstein. The organization seems to have enormous political influence.

Hunting is now permitted in the massive new parks. Spanish King Juan Carlos, for example, was recently in the news after he broke his hip while hunting elephants in Botswana. Juan Carlos is the honorary president of WWF Spain, which many find outrageous. In Namibia alone, the WWF has permitted trophy hunting in 38 conservation areas.

Rich Europeans or Americans are allowed to behave as if the colonial period had never ended. They are allowed to shoot elephants, buffalo, leopards, lions, giraffes and zebras, and they can even smear the blood of the dead animals onto their faces, in accordance with an old custom. A WWF spokesman defends this practice, saying that quotas have been established, and that the proceeds from this “regulated hunting” can contribute to conservation.

Part 3: The Myth of Sustainability

Andrew Murphy, a young Harvard graduate with African experience in the US Peace Corps, works in the WWF’s “Market Transformation” team. He represents the new generation of conservationists. He sees the members of his team as “agents of change,” who can “turn” an entire market. Murphy has plenty of these slogans up his sleeve. He says he wants to make the largest producers of and dealers in commodities like soybeans, milk, palm oil, wood and meat more sustainable. And are there successes? Yes, he says, noting that companies now want to see where the commodities come from. “Bulletproof” monitoring systems have been set up, he adds. Murphy is referring to standards like the Round Table on Responsible Soy Association (RTRS).

The organization invited industry to the RTRS in 2004. Wholesalers like Cargill and companies like Monsanto, which has donated $100,000 to the WWF over the years, had a strong presence at the meeting.

“It quickly became clear that this was greenwashing for the genetically modified soybean marketers,” says one attendee, referring to the practice of deceptively marketing a product as environmentally friendly. When a few Europeans wanted to talk about the dangers of the herbicide glyphosate, they were quickly silenced. “The Americans’ killer argument was that they were ‘technologically neutral.'”

The German branch of WWF, officially opposed to genetic engineering, ensured that those who support it were also welcome at the round table. The Germans even paid the travel expenses for representatives of the Argentine branch of the WWF, which was long run by a man with ties to the former military junta and an agricultural industrialist. No one at the round table was interested in the fact that the WWF, together with Swiss retailers, had already unveiled a stricter soybean standard a long time previously.

Undermining Itself

Undermining its own standards seems to be a specialty of the WWF. In fact, it is this flexibility that brings the organization millions in donations from industry. In the case of soybeans, the group attending the round table meeting negotiated and negotiated. It softened some standards and made some concessions, and then, finally, the first 85,000 tons of RTRS soybeans arrived in Rotterdam last June. “It was a success,” says biologist Fleckenstein, noting that the WWF had examined the soybeans carefully. “We were especially pleased that this product was genetically unmodified.” The soybeans had come from two giant farms owned by the Brazilian Maggi family.

The family conglomerate is considered the world’s largest soybean producer, with plantations covering large parts of the state of Mato Grosso in west central Brazil. The Maggis moved there from southern Brazil in the 1980s, bringing their workers with them. They cleared a large swath of the savannah rainforest and planted soybeans.

Blairo Maggi became the governor of the state, and in 2005 Greenpeace presented him with its “Golden Chainsaw” award. In no other Brazilian state was as much virgin forest cut down as in Maggi’s soybean republic. The areas now occupied by his RTRS model farms were cleared only a few years ago. According to RTRS, the two farms are the only suppliers of the 85,000 tons of certified soybeans that arrived in Rotterdam in June.

The only problem is that nothing on the Maggi farms is genetically unmodified.

Satisfying European Demand

A white tank, 10 meters tall and with a capacity of thousands of liters, stands in the shade of a warehouse at the Fazenda Tucunaré farm. The tank is labeled “Glifosato,” the Portuguese word for the herbicide glyphosate. The buildings housing the workers are only a few hundred meters away. Behind a fence, there are ditches full of foul-smelling water with a green, shimmering surface. Next to the ditches is a depot where signs with skulls on them warn: “Caution. Highly Toxic!”

Glyphosate is popular as an herbicide for genetically manipulated soybeans, because the plant is resistant to the agent, which kills weeds. Despite a growing number of critical studies showing, for example, that the agent causes reproductive problems in animals, the RTRS system permits its use.

Other pesticides are also not a problem for RTRS, which merely asks that they be “used sensibly,” says João Shimada, the sustainability manager at Grupo Maggi. It isn’t so easy to explain what happened with the 85,000 tons of soybeans, he says. “In truth, we provided those soybeans to satisfy demand coming from Europe.” Since then, companies like Unilever have boasted about using sustainable soybeans. In reality, no more than 8,000 tons came from the two farms.

“I don’t know where the other 77,000 tons came from, either,” says Shimada.

Notorious greenwashers: here.

King Juan Carlos, resign, WWF says

This 18 April 2012 video from Spain is about King Juan Carlos killing elephants in Africa.

Translated from Dutch Teletext:

WWF increases pressure on Spanish king

Update: Tuesday, April 17, 2012, 08:05

If things depend on Van de Gronden, the director of the World Wildlife Fund in the Netherlands, then the Spanish King Juan Carlos will no longer be honorary chairman of the organization. He said that in the NOS radio show Met Het Oog Op Morgen.

Juan Carlos is honorary president of WWF Spain. Last week he was hunting elephants in Botswana. That came to light during the hunt because he broke his hip.

The WWF has sent an open letter to the king in which explanation is sought. Van de Gronden says that the letter states very clearly that the king should resign.

Juan Carlos’s expensive trip to Botswana – from which he was flown home injured – arouses anger in recession-hit country: here.

Austerity, what’s that? Spanish King Juan Carlos slammed for £27,000 elephant hunting trip as his country drowns in debt and half of youngsters are jobless. Read more here.

Reuters reports:

The king’s hunting trip to Botswana last week was revealed when he was flown back to Madrid for medical attention after slipping on a step and breaking his hip.

Animal rights supporters have called a rally for Tuesday outside the hospital where he is recovering.

Spanish royal elephant butcher criticized by WWF

Not just United States parvenu new rich spoiled billionaire’s brats butcher African elephants and other wildlife.

The king of Spain hunting a drunk circus bear, cartoon

Also old rich blue-blooded royalty; according to AFP news agency today:

Spain‘s king, WWF patron, slammed for hunting

(AFP) – 7 hours ago

MADRID — Spain’s King Juan Carlos faced fire Monday for a hunting trip in Botswana during which the monarch, patron of a wildlife charity, broke his hip and ended up in hospital.

A petition on the online forum Actuable listed 40,000 signatures urging the king to give up his presidency of the Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), while an opposition politician raised the question of abdication.

The fund, whose website names the king as an honorary president, said it “will make comments to the royal palace and reiterate its commitment to the conservation of elephants,” in a Twitter message.

Juan Carlos, 74, was recovering in a Madrid hospital from an operation to replace his right hip which he broke when he tripped on a step at 2:00 am on Friday in Botswana, doctors said.

The hospital treating him said on Monday that Juan Carlos’s condition “has developed very positively” since his operation early Saturday.

But his medical condition was largely overshadowed by criticism of what was reported to be an expensive hunting trip, at a time when ordinary Spaniards are suffering from a recession.

Tomas Gomez, leader of the Madrid branch of the opposition Spanish Socialist party, added his voice to criticism by various minority left-wing political parties.

“The head of state must choose between his obligations and the duty of service of his public responsibilities, or an abdication that would allow him to enjoy a different kind of life,” Gomez told reporters on Sunday.

The king has traditionally been widely respected in Spain, credited with helping steer the country to democracy after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

But he has suffered a troublesome few months marked by an embarrassing corruption scandal implicating his son-in-law, the Duke of Palma, Inaki Urdangarin.

Juan Carlos’s surgeon Angel Villamor said the king could expect to be discharged from hospital this week.

“He continues with an intensive recovery programme,” the Hospital USP San Jose said in a statement. “The physiotherapy is proceeding satisfactorily and currently, as well as walking, he is getting up and sitting down by himself.”

Spanish newspapers published photographs taken in previous years of the king, who has a reputation as a keen huntsman, posing with a gun next to elephants and buffalos.

In 2009 a court dropped charges against the three authors of a caricature that depicted Juan Carlos on a hunting trip in Russia where he allegedly shot dead a drunken circus bear.