Actor Susan Sarandon has called on the World Wide Fund for Nature to carry out a thorough investigation into evidence of human rights abuses by anti-poaching guards it backs at wildlife parks around the world.
BuzzFeed News last week exposed how the beloved wildlife charity has for years funded and equipped paramilitary forces that have tortured and killed indigenous people.
“I would hope that there is an in-depth investigation of such serious allegations,” the actor and activist said in a statement Wednesday.
Sarandon is the latest celebrity supporter to distance herself from WWF in the wake of the revelations. Explorer Ben Fogle suspended his role as a celebrity ambassador for WWF soon after the story broke.
Last week the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation also called for WWF to investigate.
“The allegations against WWF are extremely concerning,” a spokesperson for the foundation said in a statement. “We urge WWF to complete an independent, comprehensive review of these allegations, and provide the public with a full and transparent accounting of their findings while taking all appropriate corrective measures.”
Politicians in the US and the UK have called for a review of government aid funding for WWF, while the UK Charity Commission said it would urgently look into evidence of “appalling atrocities and human rights abuses,” which it described as being “at odds with everything we associate with charity.”
WWF International has launched an independent inquiry in response to the revelations, while also saying that “many of BuzzFeed’s assertions do not match our understanding of events.” But the charity has declined to give details of the scope of the investigation, how its independence will be ensured, or whether its findings will ever be published. Internal documents reveal that WWF has previously commissioned other investigations that implicated rangers it funds in crimes against indigenous people, the results of which were not made public.
Sarandon’s statement will add further pressure on the charity's other prominent supporters, including the British naturalist David Attenborough, actor Christian Bale, and Hollywood star Jared Leto, as well as a number of senior British politicians from the House of Lords. All have so far declined to comment.