The conservation charity WWF is to commission an independent review amid allegations that wildlife rangers it has funded in Asia and Africa have been responsible for the torture and murder of local people.
The allegations were published in an article on the BuzzFeed News website this morning after what the site said was a year-long investigation into the charity’s activities in six countries.
The article alleged that people had been whipped, attacked with machetes, beaten unconscious with sticks, sexually assaulted, shot and murdered by WWF-supported anti-poaching units.
It accused the charity of operating "like a global spymaster", running secretive networks of informants.
Today’s piece, which the site said was the first in a series of articles it intended to run throughout the week, focused on a Nepali man whom BuzzFeed said was imprisoned and "tortured to death" by WWF-funded rangers.
It also alleged that an 11-year-old boy was tortured in Cameroon and WWF failed to respond to his family’s complaints.
A spokesman for WWF UK said: "At the heart of WWF’s work are places and the people who live in them. Respect for human rights is at the core of our mission.
"We take any allegation seriously and are commissioning an independent review to look into the cases raised in the story."
The article said the claims were based on more than 100 interviews and thousands of pages of documents. In his statement, the WWF spokesman said the charity had asked BuzzFeed to share all evidence it had obtained to help inform and strengthen this review.
"WWF’s work relies on deep community support, engagement and inclusion," he said.
"We have stringent policies designed to ensure both we and our partners are safeguarding the rights and wellbeing of indigenous people and local communities in the places we work.
"Any breach of these policies is unacceptable to us and, should the review uncover any, we are committed to taking swift action."