The NRC ombudsman today published his verdict on a complaint filed by the Dutch Postcode Lottery and the Peace Parks Foundation (see this link, in Dutch). They did not agree with the NRC article that critically looked at the Postcode Lottery 14,4 million Euro dreamfund project to ‘save the rhino’ by poisoning their horns to deter poachers and wanted it rectified. According to the Ombudsman, the postcode lottery insisted in the complaint that they did not paint too rosy a picture during the ‘Goed Geld Gala’ award ceremony and that the quotes from Lorinda Hern of the Rhino Rescue Project and Dr. Markus Hofmeyr from South African National Parks (SANParks) in the article were incorrect.
The Ombudsman concludes that not only was the NRC article correct, the whole story is arguably even more worrisome than initially thought. The reason for this is that the Peace Parks Foundation tried to influence these two informants by making them write emails to take back their quotes. The Ombudsman spoke to both of them personally and confirms that not only were their original quotes in the NRC article correct, but that Lorinda Hern’s opinions about the Peace Parks Foundation are even more critical now, with her stating that “the peace parks foundation threw us in front of the bus once they got the money from the Dutch” (Sunday Times, 14 September 2014).
Last week, the Peace Parks Foundation already admitted they had ‘gotten ahead of themselves’, and refunded part of the money for horn infusion to the Dutch postcode lottery (see the links in this previous post). This current news about the kind of practices they are willing to resort to, to ensure that the truth does not come out, however, makes matters even worse. It resembles Dutch Peace Parks Foundation director Mr. John Loudon’s tactics in Nieuwsuur when he insisted that I had not done ‘my homework’ instead of admitting that they themselves had messed up (see my previous post). It seems time for the Dutch Postcode Lottery to critically look at its own practices, and indeed its funding relation to an organisation such as the Peace Parks Foundation. If the postcode lottery is really concerned with saving the rhino it would do well to start working with local grassroots organisations focused on longer-term social and environmental justice around protected areas in Southern Africa rather than working with elite organisations and individuals far removed from the actual problems in the field.