WWF may be guilty of funding torture, killing of civilians in war against poaching

They also acted as a 'global spymaster' of sorts by funding informants for poaching activity.

The most widely-known conservation charity in the world has been accused of hiring and paying guards who reportedly used illegal means like torture and murder in the war against poaching.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), about which the accusations have been made, said it is carrying out an independent review into the matter. The claims were made after a year-long investigation across six countries was carried out by Buzzfeed News.

The investigation alleges that casualties from the illegal activity include civilians in Asian and African national parks.

"Indigenous people and villagers have been shot, beaten unconscious, sexually assaulted, and whipped by armed guards in parks in places like Nepal and Cameroon," according to the BuzzFeed report. It also calls out WWF for funding, arming and turning a blind eye to a lot of the abuse.

The charity supposedly also acted as a "global spymaster" of sorts, funding informants to pass along intelligence to park rangers and officials, only to publicly deny it later.

WWF may be guilty of funding torture, killing of civilians in war against poaching

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) activists demonstrate on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference COP16 in Cancun. Image: Reuters

WWF has responded to some of these claims, saying it does not tolerate any brutality by its partners.

"We take any allegation seriously and are commissioning an independent review to look into the cases raised in the story," they said in a statement. They have also asked BuzzFeed to share all the evidence they have gathered to support their claims to help strengthen their independent review.

"Human rights abuses are totally unacceptable and can never be justified in the name of conservation," WWF's statement adds.

"Any breach of (our) policies is unacceptable to us and, should the review uncover any, we are committed to taking swift action."

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