With 4 million members and efforts in 100 countries, the World Wildlife Fund is the largest and, likely, the best-known environmental nonprofit organization in the world.
The WWF claims to do a great deal of good for endangered species and environmental protection efforts. However, when the Taxpayers Protection Alliance took a closer look at WWF funding, projects and scandals in a report released last week, a very troubling picture emerged.
The organization is a tremendous burden on taxpayers and a dangerous threat to the indigenous people in the areas where the WWF is active. Too often, the WWF does more harm than good to the animals and lands they profess to protect.
A 2011 documentary titled “The Pact with the Panda,” exposed that the WWF was responsible for displacing more than a million native inhabitants in India in an effort to protect the local tiger population. This modern-day “Trail of Tears” is even more outrageous considering that the Indians driven from their lands under the guise of protecting tigers lived alongside the tigers for centuries. Not only did the WWF destroy the lives, culture and society of more than a million people, there are fewer tigers left in these areas now than before the atrocious displacement efforts began.
One reason for the failure of the WWF’s efforts to protect the tigers might have something to do with what they did with the tigers’ habitat after they drove away those pesky human from their homes. The WWF gives tourists who shell out about $10,000 the opportunity to pile in one of 155 jeeps and chase the few tigers that remain around their preserves for eight hours a day. This may be terrible for the tigers, but it’s big business for the WWF, which seems all too happy with the millions of dollars brought in through this ecotourism scheme.
This troubling instance of the WWF forcing people to uproot from their homes in India is not even the most despicable example of forced migration by organization in recent years. In Nov. 2011, Prince Charles, who serves as president of WWF UK, visited Tanzania to present five local leaders with “Living Planet” awards for their work. According to an article in the London newspaper The Telegraph, “Shortly before the Prince’s arrival, it was revealed that thousands of villagers had been evicted from the forest, their huts in the paddy fields torched and their coconut palms felled. This was carried out by the Tanzanian government’s Forestry and Beekeeping Division, with which the WWF has been working.”
Besides driving poor native populations from their land and destroying their homes, the WWF also keeps busy ensuring these people remain poor.
WWF led a lobbying effort to impose trade restrictions on Indonesian pulp, paper and palm oil products, ostensibly to protect the forests of Indonesia. In reality, the WWF was serving as a front group for North American, European and Australian competitors who produce the same products as the Indonesian companies, but were being threatened by the lower price of the Indonesian goods. The area of Indonesia responsible for producing these products is one of the poorest places in the world. Workers in the region were given the opportunity to make a decent living and provide for their families, only to see it taken away because the WWF worked in cahoots with developed nations to kill their jobs
In Dec. 2011, allegations of “inappropriate expense reporting” were reported in the WWF’s Tanzanian office. The WWF commissioned Ernst & Young to conduct an independent investigation to get to the bottom of the accusations.
The audit found that more than $400,000 was “misappropriated by the WWF local staff who forged hotel [and] taxi receipts,” according to the Daily News, a newspaper in Tanzania.
This widespread fraud related to the WWF’s efforts in Tanzania resulted in the termination of eight employees and the resignation of six others.
It is a misfortune when a nonprofit organization has its money stolen by disreputable workers. It is an outrage when most of the money stolen came at the expense of taxpayers. According to the audit, on top of the $400,000+ pilfered by corrupt WWF workers, five more WWF employees in Tanzania stole money from a USAID-funded project.
In total, taxpayers were out hundreds of thousands of dollars because bureaucrats and elected officials were careless enough to shower the WWF with tax dollars, despite the organization’s troubling track record.
A few hundred grand is, unfortunately, chump change compared to the tens of millions of dollars the federal government regularly hands out to the WWF. Since 2000, the WWF snatched up $97 million in federal grants and other handouts funded by tax dollars, according to the Taxpayers Protection Alliance’s tally.
A lot of those tax dollars go straight in the pockets of the WWF’s well-compensated employees. Carter Roberts, WWF’s president, pocketed a $425,000 salary in 2009. The chief operating officer of the World Wildlife Fund, Marcia Marsh, earns over $300,000 in salary and benefits. “In fact, in 2009, no fewer than 18 U.S.-based WWF employees raked in more than $200,000 in salary and benefits,” according to the government watchdog group responsible for the reports.
Perhaps most shocking for taxpayers is the fact that the WWF currently has $238.1 million in the bank. That means that taxpayers are forced to pour millions of dollars each year into an organization sitting on nearly a quarter of a billion dollars. The WWF is extraordinarily rich and certainly does not need an annual bailout courtesy of American taxpayers to keep its lights on.
The idea that tax dollars would go to support a rich international nonprofit might not raise red flags at first blush, but a closer look is enough to infuriate any hardworking taxpayer. It is simply unthinkable that, with the government $16 trillion in debt and tens of millions of Americans out of work, federal lawmakers and bureaucrats find it acceptable to hand out tax dollars to an organization that forces people from their homes, prevents some of the poorest workers in the world from earning a decent living, harms the endangered animals it claims to help and has proven irresponsible with money.
Congress should immediately stop wasting Americans’ money subsidizing the WWF.