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Survival International Accuses WWF of Involvement in Violence and Abuse

Survival International

February 10, 2016

 

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Forced out of the forest, many Baka communities complain of a serious decline in their health. Living on the roadside, they are increasingly exposed to malaria and other diseases. © Survival International

 

Survival International has launched a formal complaint about the activities of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Cameroon.

This is the first time a conservation organization has been the subject of a complaint to the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), using a procedure more normally invoked against multinational corporations.

The complaint charges WWF with involvement in violent abuse and land theft against Baka “Pygmies” in Cameroon, carried out by anti-poaching squads which it in part funds and equips.

Before beginning its work in Cameroon, WWF failed to consider what impact it would have on the Baka. As a result, WWF has contributed to serious human rights violations and broken the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It supports conservation zones on Baka land, to which the Baka are denied access, as well as the anti-poaching squads that have violently abused Baka men and women, and other rainforest tribes, for well over a decade.

The international conservation organization has thereby violated both OECD human rights guidelines and its own policy on indigenous peoples, and Survival’s legal team has therefore submitted a formal complaint.

Baka have repeatedly testified to Survival about the activities of these anti-poaching squads in the region. In 2015 one Baka man said: “When they came to beat me here in my home, my wife and I were sleeping. They beat me with machetes. They beat my wife with machetes.”

 

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The Baka have lived sustainably in the central African rainforest for generations as hunter-gatherers © Selcen Kucukustel/Atlas

“They are letting the elephants die out in the forest at the same time as they are stopping us from eating,” another Baka man told Survival. Today, the destruction of Baka land through logging, mining and the trafficking of wildlife continues, provoking concern among tribespeople that their land is being destroyed, even as they are denied access to large parts of it in the name of conservation.

Survival International is calling for a new approach to conservation that respects tribal peoples’ rights. Tribal peoples have been dependent on and managed their environments for millennia. Despite this, big conservation organizations are partnering with industry and tourism and destroying the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world – tribes. They are the environment’s best allies, and should be at the centre of conservation policy.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today: “WWF knows that the men its supporters fund for conservation work repeatedly abuse, and even torture, the Baka, whose land has been stolen for conservation zones. It hasn’t stopped them, and it treats criticism as something to be countered with yet more public relations. It calls on companies to stick to the same OECD guidelines it routinely violates itself. Both conservation and development have been allowed to trump human rights for decades and millions of people in Africa and Asia have suffered as a result. It’s time the big conservation organizations got their act together. If WWF really can’t stop the guards it funds in Cameroon from attacking Baka, then perhaps it should be asking itself if it has any right to be there at all.”

 

Watch Baka recount the abuse they suffer at the hands of anti-poaching squads supported by WWF:

 

Further reading:

WATCH: WWF SILENCE OF THE PANDAS | A Journey into the Heart of the Green Empire

Cameroon: WWF Complicit in Tribal People’s Abuse

Cameroon: WWF Complicit in Tribal People’s Abuse

Survival International

October 6, 2014

Baka in southeast Cameroon face serious abuse at the hands of anti-poaching squads supported and funded by WWF.

Baka in southeast Cameroon face serious abuse at the hands of anti-poaching squads supported and funded by WWF.
© Selcen Kucukustel/Atlas

Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, has uncovered serious abuses of Baka “Pygmies” in southeast Cameroon, at the hands of anti-poaching squads supported and funded by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The Baka are being illegally forced from their ancestral homelands in the name of “conservation” because much of their land has been turned into “protected areas” – including safari-hunting zones.

Rather than target the powerful individuals behind organized poaching, wildlife officers and soldiers pursue Baka who hunt only to feed their families.

Watch Baka recount the abuse they suffer at the hands of anti-poaching squads supported by WWF:

Baka suffer abuse in the name of conservationIn southeast Cameroon, many Baka are being illegally forced from their ancestral homelands in the name of “conservation.”They are accused of “poaching” because they hunt their food.

They face arrest and beatings, torture and death at the hand of anti-poaching squads supported by WWF.

Many Baka (such as the woman speaking in this video) in fact refer to anti-poaching squads as “dobi-dobi” (WWF), since they do not distinguish between WWF and Cameroon’s Ministry of Forests and Fauna.

The Baka and their neighbors accused of “poaching” face arrest, beatings and torture. Many Baka claim that friends and relatives have died as a result of the beatings.

Cameroon’s Ministry of Forests and Fauna, which employs the wildlife officers, is funded by WWF. WWF also provides officers with technical, logistical and material assistance. Without this support the anti-poaching squads could not function.

UN standards require WWF to prevent or mitigate “adverse human rights impacts directly linked to its operations” even if it has not contributed to them, but the giant of the conservation industry appears reluctant to acknowledge this. Despite the evidence that the anti-poaching squads have grossly abused the rights of the Baka, WWF continues to provide its crucial support.

As a result of the loss of their land and its resources, many Baka have reported a serious decline in their health and a rise in diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS. And they fear going into the forest that has provided them with everything they need for countless generations.

The Baka fear going into the forest which has provided them with everything they need.

The Baka fear going into the forest which has provided them with everything they need.
© Survival International

A Baka man told Survival, “The forest used to be for the Baka but not anymore. We would walk in the forest according to the seasons but now we’re afraid. How can they forbid us from going into the forest? We don’t know how to live otherwise. They beat us, kill us and force us to flee to Congo.”

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, “Tribal peoples are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world. They know more about their lands and what happens on them than anyone else. If conservation is to work, organizations like WWF need to stick to international law, uphold tribal peoples’ land rights, ask them what help they need in protecting their land, listen to them, and then be prepared to back them up as much as they can. A major change in thinking about conservation is urgently required.”

 

UPDATE 16 October: WWF has responded angrily to Survival’s campaign. Read the facts behind the headlines.

 

Notes to editors:

– “Pygmy” is an umbrella term commonly used to refer to the hunter-gatherer peoples of the Congo Basin and elsewhere in Central Africa. The word is considered pejorative and avoided by some tribespeople, but used by others as a convenient and easily recognized way of describing themselves. Read more.

– Survival has submitted a request to the Cameroonian National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms asking it to investigate these abuses.

– Many Baka (such as the woman speaking in the video) refer to anti-poaching squads as “dobi-dobi” (WWF) since they do not distinguish between WWF and Cameroon’s Ministry of Forests and Fauna.

– Visit Survival’s Parks Need People page for other examples of tribal peoples evicted from their ancestral homelands in the name of “conservation”.

 

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