WWF cofounder Russell Train, 92

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  September 2012:

Russell E. Train, 92, died on September 17, 2012 at his farm in Bozman,  Maryland.  An attorney prominent in Republican politics,  Train was appointed by then-U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower to the bench of the U.S. Tax Court in 1957.  Recalled Washington Post obituarist Juliet Eilperin,  “Around that time, Train and his wife took two safari expeditions to East Africa,” as the then-British colony including Kenya and Tanzania was then known.

“He shot an elephant and was chased by a rhinoceros,” Eilperin wrote.  Activists seeking Kenyan independence had already pledged to abolish trophy hunting,  as a pursuit symbolizing colonialism and contradicting the teachings of some of the largest indigenous Kenyan communities.  There was also political momentum building to ban sport hunting in India, whose tiger population had been shot to the verge of extinction.  Recognizing an opportunity, Train in 1961 founded the African Wildlife Leadership Foundation, now called just the African Wildlife Foundation, and cofounded the World Wildlife Fund, with trophy hunter Sir Peter Scott and cronies, including captive bird-shooters Prince Philip of Britain and Prince Bernhardt of The Netherlands, the whaler Aristotle Onassis, and then-National  Rifle Association president C.R. “Pink” Gutermuth.

A primary goal of both the AWLF and WWF was to promote funding of wildlife conservation internationally by sales of hunting permits. This, the founders hoped, would prevent newly independent former colonies of European nations from banning sport hunting.

Tanganyika won independence in 1961, merged with Zanzibar to form Tanzania in 1964, and authoritarian governments there have avidly accommodated trophy hunters ever since.  Kenya won independence in 1963, but actually implementing a hunting ban took 14 years, largely due to the role of the AWLF.

For more than 25 years the AWLF trained staff for the Kenya Wildlife Service and openly sought first to forestall the hunting ban, and then to repeal it.  After the AWLF became the AWF, it backed the Laikipia Wildlife Forum, an association of landowners that lobbied through the Kenyan parliament a December 2004 stealth repeal of the hunting ban.  Kenyan president Emilio Mwai Kibaki vetoed the repeal bill after Josphat Ngonyo, founder of Youth for Conservation and the African Network for Animal Welfare, rallied nationwide grassroots opposition on only two weeks’ notice.

WWF meanwhile has globally promoted the doctrine of “sustainable use,” meaning that wildlife conservation should pay for itself.  Trophy hunting was the original funding mechanism advanced by WWF, but over time the concept of “sustainable use” has been broaded to include a range of other exploitative and extractive habitat-destroying industries, including rainforest logging, often done using WWF endorsements as cover.

Train in 1965 left his Tax Court position to head the Conservation Foundation, then left the Conservation Foundation in 1969 to hold a variety of positions within the administration of President Richard Nixon.  Train in 1970 was named first chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, headed the Environmental Protection Agency toward the end of Nixon’s tenure and under President Gerald Ford, and had roles in producing and implementing the U.S. Endangered Species Act,  Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and National Environ-mental Policy Act.

Train from 1978 to 1985 was U.S. chair of WWF.  Elected to chair both WWF and the Conservation Fund in 1985, Train merged the organizations in 1990.  Named WWF chair emeritus in 1994, he chaired the WWF National Council from 1994 to 2001.

Prominent within WWF affairs during Train’s tenure in senior positions was Mobuto Sese Seko, who ruled the Congo for nearly 30 years before his death in 1996, and was widely identified as the top profiteer, globally, in ivory trafficking.

Also during Train’s tenure at WWF, Prince Bernhardt and WWF Africa program director John Hanks formed Operation Lock, an anti-poaching mercenary force.  Officially disavowed by WWF, it worked closely with units of the apartheid South African military-which funded covert activities in other African nations through elephant and rhino poaching.  As London Independent reporter Stephen Ellis revealed in January 1991, it “collapsed with funds and horn stocks missing.”

King Gyanendra of Nepal, an avid hunter who represented Nepal in dealings with WWF from 1976 to 2006, was found in March 2008 to have extensively misused funds granted to the King Mahendra National Trust for Nature Conservation.

WWF also overlooked incidents involving other prominent hunters within the organization, including WWF/Sweden honorary president King Carl Gustaf and WWF/ Spain honorary president King Juan Carlos, who was recently terminated after shooting an elephant in Botwana (see page 14.)

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