Saturday, 16 August 2008

WWF's reply

In the spirit of being open and fair I am copying below an email reply received from WWF regarding their fundraising, specifically concerning orangutan conservation. This is in reply to our request for more transparency from WWF.

A big THANK YOU to all of you who wrote to WWF.

Whilst I am appreciative of WWF's reply, it does nothing to reassure me they will save any orangutans. Why? Because some 25 years ago they also had 'big' plans to "Save the Tiger". What happened? I'm guessing WWF must have spent tens of millions of pounds of donors money on this project. I've been unable to find out what the tiger population was back in about 1975, but the Indian tiger is now down to the about last 1500. I think we can safely say that during WWF's multi-million pound "Save the Tiger" campaign at least 10,000 tigers have been killed, maybe 20,000 or more. Numerically speaking WWF has not saved a single tiger; worse though, thousands were killed during this high profile WWF fundraising campaign - to save tigers. So, where did all the public money go?

Now we have WWF with another big, 'sexy', high profile income generating species, and really big plans to save them. Hmmnn. I'm not saying WWF won't try. What I am saying is, based on their past and my own impression of WWF on the ground in Indonesian Borneo, I have zero faith in their ability to save any orangutans. About 2500-3000 orangutans have been killed annually for the past 25 years. Let's see if WWF can get this figure down shall we?

As you will see below, the amount of money WWF has at its disposal is enormous. It is what WWF does with the money that concerns me. Keep in mind a great many people in Borneo would consider a wage of £1000 a year to be a fantastic amount. Now look at how much money WWF has - available for orangutan conservation - and this is ONLY the UK office.

Put another way; the Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP) in the past couple of months has saved seven orangutans at a total cost of perhaps £2000. COP is also out there building conservation camps, investigating and exposing palm oil companies, etc. etc. on an annual budget for 10 people that is smaller than any single project WWF has listed below. Just look at the photos on this Blog, then look at WWF's fancy web site and judge for yourself, who you think is doing a much better job for orangutans.

I have highlighted a paragraph below which describes what I suspect will absorb a lot of this money. It would be impossible for me to exaggerate how large the sums of money in question are in relation to Indonesian Borneo - WWF has truly staggering amounts of money, but I've never yet met a WWF person in the field or forest, only in offices. I'm sure such people exist outside of offices, but with this kind of money I'd expect to see WWF everywhere.

Dear Mr. Whyte,

Your e-mail of August 10th to our Chief Executive David Nussbaum has been passed to me for response in his absence.

1. Expenditure in Borneo

As stated in Mr. Nussbaum’s letter of July 31st, for the current fiscal year (FY'09), WWF-UK’s minimum* commitment to Borneo is £250,000. This is broken down as follows:

£50K - to rehabilitate 100 hectares of rainforest in the Ulu Segama forest reserves in Sabah

£50K - for orang-utan conservation in Ulu Segama, Sabah including development of the Ulu Segama forest management plan and survey work to map the orang populations in the area

£50K - towards core costs for the Heart of Borneo team (essentially covering staff costs and overheads of core team - team leader, finance manager, 3 national coordinators)

£100K - contribution to the WWF network programme working on the wide scope of Heart of Borneo goals. These long term goals include achieving the following:

Goal 1: Establish a 24 million hectare mosaic of protected areas, transboundary reserves, and sustainably managed corridors and buffer zones, to ensure the future of all HoB priority species and endemism hotspots.

Operational Priority: Transboundary Policy, Planning and Governance - Working with 3 Bornean governments to enhance cooperation and governance of shared resources.

Components: Conservation Areas, Land use Planning and Policy, Wildlife Trade and Species, and Institutional Strengthening

Goal 2: Reduce to zero the rate of conversion of high conservation value natural forests to other land use in the Heart of Borneo.

Operational Priority: Minimising footprint of industry (timber, oil palm, pulp & paper, mining) and market actors (financial institutions) through major multi-sector reform towards responsible resource use.
Components: Timber, Pulp & Paper; Oil Palm, Mining, and Financial Institutions

Goal 3: Develop long-term financing mechanisms which provide diversified and equitable benefits for local communities and governments, and enhance ecosystem goods and services.

Operational Priority: Fostering public-private partnerships to develop new funding that provides diversified benefits to local communities and governments and enhances ecosystem values.

Components: Sustainable Financing and Ecosystem Services (targeting revenue generation for local governments and income generation for local

* Note: in FY'08 which ended on June 30th, actual expenditure on Heart
of Borneo related projects was £380K. FY'09 actual spend will probably
be similar; the budget numbers above reflect planning assumptions.

As is obvious from the list above, some of this work occurs “on the front line.” (Indeed, your own web site shows a photo of an orang-utan rescued by WWF.) However, as stated in previous correspondence to you, the core of our work consists of technical specialists working to assist local governments in drafting effective new legislation, developing sustainable forestry practice, training local community leaders in resource stewardship, persuading multinationals to alter their sourcing practices, facilitating micro-finance projects for sustainable livelihoods, etc.

WWF-UK is one member of the WWF international network of conservation organisations. Total WWF network expenditure in Borneo will be significantly higher than the figures given above.

2. Income raised

WWF-UK's Orang-utan "adoption" programme raised about £540,000 in FY'08 before fundraising costs.

The cost of fundraising at WWF-UK is similar to that of most global charities at approximately 23% of expenditure.

Funds not used in a given year are either rolled forward (typically to finance three year contracts), or redistributed to protect other great apes around the world and/or address many of the global threats to their existence, ranging from habitat loss and wildlife poaching to climate change (as is clearly disclosed to all donors.)

3. Conclusion

We accept that you do not agree with our prioritisation of actions.
Your organisation’s work in rescuing distressed animals is an essential element in the protection of this species. We believe our broader range of activities is equally important and complementary to the work you are doing in ensuring the long term survival of the orang-utan.

We wish you much continued success.

Patrick Laine
Deputy Director Fundraising