Twenty years ago, fundraising publicity for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) posed a very odd question: whether to send in the army or an anthropologist to stop indigenous people destroying the Amazon rainforest. Equally bizarre, it claimed that the media was "inundated with appeals to save native peoples" and asked, "Do they really deserve our support?" The world's leading conservation organization went on by saying that tribes had learned many things from outsiders, including "greed and corruption." WWF's answer to this apparent dilemma was thankfully not the army, but for concerned people to give it more money (its daily income is now $2 million) so it could "work with native peoples to develop conservation techniques."
At Survival International, we were dismayed, and so were tribal organizations when we showed them the advertisement. For WWF to blame "duped" tribespeople for deforestation was serious enough (giving the impression they trumped conservationists in attracting more funding was laughable), but even mentioning soldiers in the same sentence as conservationists uncomfortably echoed the latter's dubious roots in colonialist ideology.