Protesters target WWF headquarters

YOUNG environmental activists staged a sit-in at the WWF headquarters in Woking, protesting that the conservation charity’s work damages the human rights of people in Africa.

Activists wearing panda masks, emulating the WWF logo, spread their message to the public during the occupation

Twelve people – members of the WTF WWF campaign and Extinction Rebellion Youth Solidarity – moved into the building in Brewery Road on Tuesday morning last week.

Over four days, they refused to leave until the charity’s leaders addressed claims that its conservation activities are causing indigenous tribes in Tanzania, Cameroon and Kenya to be evicted and persecuted.

Masks were left on the statues of cricketing twins Sir Alec and Eric Bedser on the bridge outside the WWF building. Picture by Meg Rae

“WWF and its ‘fortress conservation’ model has led to human rights abuses,” said WTF WWF spokesperson Federico Pastoris. “Fortress conservation encloses nature, creating ‘protected’ areas and violently removing indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands in the process.

“In Tanzania, for example, this model is enabling the eviction of 80,000 Maasai residents of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, as part of a land use and resettlement plan that will result in much of the area being used for trophy hunting and ecotourism.”

On Friday, the last day of their protest, the activists gained access to the WWF HQ conference room. They invited the charity’s staff to watch a livestreamed conversation with people who live in African conservation areas but the building had been evacuated by then.

A WWF spokesperson said this week: “The occupation of our UK head office, which saw protesters disrupting our work, targeting members of staff in social media posts and misrepresenting our words, our actions and our views was completely unacceptable.

“We made clear that we were open to constructive conversations, but the protesters’ actions fundamentally undermined this.

“As a global organisation, we will continually look for ways to strengthen how we embed human rights into nature conservation everywhere we work, including in the most challenging areas of the world, to safeguard communities and the nature upon which they depend.”

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