Murders, rapes and beatings have been carried out by members of paramilitary forces that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has paid to protect protected areas in Asia and Africa. Evidence of this was published by the American site Buzzfeednews.com, where the investigation of journalists Tom Warren and Katie Baker - "WWF`s Secret War" began this week. The two have conducted their investigation for several years in Nepal, Cameroon, Central African Republic, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. Thousands of papers have been collected and more than 100 people have been interviewed. So far, two parts have been published on Buzzfeednews.com on the harm done by the WWF-masked behind environmental cause - an organization also operating in Bulgaria. Today and in next days, "Trud" will publish the revelations of Tom Warren and Katie Baker. In today`s issue, read what happened in Nepal - how, under WWF`s pressure, one man`s killers are not convicted by corrupt authorities but turned into heroes.
Seven broken ribs, bruises all over his body and fatal suffocation from chest compression - such traumas showed an autopsy of Nepal farmer Shikharam Chaudhary. He died on June 4, 2006 after several days of being tortured and beaten by mercenaries, which WWF pay and train to protect rhinos and other protected species in Chitwan National Park at the foot of the Himalayas.
Torture and death
In front of Buzzfeednews.com correspondents, his wife Hira told that Shikharam was detained by WWF mercenaries. The accusation was that he helped their son helped his son bury a rhinoceros horn in his backyard. They couldn’t find the horn, but they threw Shikharam in their improvised jail built in the park to lock up the poachers. But Shikharam was a farmer whose family has lived in these lands for years before they were declared protected. People there feed themselves on catching fish and animals, but under the pressure of the WWF they were expelled from there. It was precisely because of their attempts to make ends meet as their ancestors - by hunting, fishing, harvesting, and locals often came to the attention of WWF`s mercenaries who called them "poachers" and treated them as such. Hira, Shikharam`s wife told that when she went to see him in jail, he was crushed by a fight. He begged her to cry even more inconsolable to have mercy on him and to let him go because of her.
"He told me they beat him mercilessly and put saltwater in his nose and mouth" recalls Hira. She barely managed to give her husband an ointment to for his wounds. But in a few days she was told that he died suddenly for no apparent reason.
Chief Warden Tikaram Adhikari, paramilitary combat poacher team leader Kamal Kunwar and employee Ritesh Bhushan were arrested for the murder, but then the mighty WWF sponsor appeared. From there, they announce that it was the next poacher who has been exterminating protected species in the National Park. On 4 March 2007, the Nepalese authorities suspended the investigation. Perhaps the reason was the fact that just for the 2009-2010 period, the World Fund gave over $ 3 million in protected areas in the region. And the Fund announced the decision of the authorities for a great victory.
"Now the park staff will renew their motivation to protect the protected species," said the WWF representative in Nepal Anil Manandhar.
But several human rights protection organizations conducted their own investigations. According to witnesses, WWF mercenaries have beaten Shikharam Chaudhary with bamboo poles and stomping on him with their boots and kicking him all over the body. People who were also imprisoned with Shikharam on poaching accusations explained that they were asking to stop tortures because the man would die.
A former employee of the Park admitted to US journalists that torture of suspected poachers were routine with the goal to extort confessions of rhino murders. Favorite WWF mercenaries’ torture was to place a cloth moistened with salt water on the victim`s face. So the man slowly and painfully suffocated until he said he was guilty. But instead of being convicted, the three charged with farmer`s murder became almost WWF heroes. They participated in media events and campaigns, and in 2009, Kamal Kunwar published a biographical book titled "Four Years for Rhino".
The American media revealed in its investigation that during the time Shikharam Chaudhary was killed, another man was found dead with traces of torture. His family tried to get to the truth, but the government believed WWF mercenaries - the man had hanged himself without reason.
A case of violence against local people has even been published in the biography of Kamal Kunwar. There he boasted how his team caught a boy whom they were questioning. Because at first he refused to speak, they filled his mouth and nose with salt water - the same torture that Shikharam Chaudhary told his wife a few days before he died. And the mercenary described how effective an extorting confession technique was it.
One more fact - a woman complained that a soldier patrolling Chitwan National Park attacked her while she was cutting grass. He dragged her into the bushes and attempted to rape her. She had a fierce resistance. Angry, the mercenary he beat her with a bamboo stick until she lost consciousness. In front of Buzzfeednews.com, the woman explained that she still cannot stand on one leg because of the severe injuries she received.
Award instead of jail
Instead of being convicted of murder by the Nepalese authorities, Tikaram Adhikari, Kamal Kunwar and Ritesh Bhushan became faces of the WWF. In 2014, Kunwar accepted the Living Planet Award on behalf of Chitwan National Park management. His prize was given by the then WWF president, Yolanda Kakabadze.
In 2014, nearly eight years after Shikharam`s death, one of his killers, Kamal Kunwar, accepted the Living Planet award on behalf of the Chitwan National Park. His prize was given by the then WWF president, Yolanda Kakabadze.
The Kamal Kunwar`s book was even filmed, sponsored by WWF. The film will be broadcasted worldwide to show how well the fight against poachers under the WWF guidance goes.
Meanwhile, the wife of the murdered Shikharam Chaudhary - Hira, told the US site that received "a few thousand dollars" by WWF after her husband`s death. She never saw their representative again.
"I`m alone now," said Hira.
* In the next issue of "Trud", read the sequel to the Buzzfeednews.com investigation: how WWF takes part in arms deals and builds a network of informants.