Wildlife groups hope to dispel stereotypes in North and South

The World Wildlife Fund is successfully convincing Inuit that they’re not an anti-hunting organization.



IQALUIT — Closer ties between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board (QWB) will help both groups tear down stereotypes, say leaders from both organizations.

The WWF can help Inuit hunters re-build their image in Canada and give them access to research on the wildlife they depend on, says the executive director of the Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board, Joanassie Akumalik.

Akumalik was appointed recently to the Canadian WWF’s board of directors during the conservation group’s Nov. 8 annual general meeting in Toronto. At the meeting, the WWF issued a “statement of commitment to Nunavut.”

“It was quite exciting, because you have a large number of people attending from various points in Canada. It came to the point where they have a special recognition for Nunavut. I think with our presence at that AGM, it’s going to obviously open some eyes to some donors to who we really are and the fact that we are dealing with conservation and wildlife,” Akumalik says.

The anti-sealing campaign in the south hurt the economy and social life of Inuit in the North, Akumilik said. He said the QWB was at first very hesitant about having a relationship with the WWF, but a visit from WWF President Monte Hummel changed the minds of QWB board members.

“There was a lot of direct questions to him — whether WWF supports bowhead hunt, where was WWF when the anti-sealing campaign was going on. I think he gave a good response,” says Akumalik.

“We’ve had a perennial problem in the North,” says Hummel. “People hear World Wildlife, they just hear wildlife. They hear you’re in Toronto or they hear you’re connected to an international network and right away they think seal hunt, trapping, these guys are bad guys.”

Hummel says this is nothing new for the WWF, which has been working on animal and habitat conservation for many years in the north.

Although his group supports sustainable harvests of wildlife, he says that there is still a stereotype his group has to work against. He says he hopes that with a closer working relationship with groups in Nunavut, the WWF can win back trust with Nunavumiut.

“The general Inuit population still has a natural suspicion about such a group,” says John Amagoalik, the keynote speaker at the WWF’s meeting.

He says animal rights groups such as Greenpeace did a great deal of damage to conservation groups such as the WWF with their anti-sealing campaign and their ignorance of the Inuit way of life.

“I think a conservation organization does have its place in Nunavut,” says Amagoalik. Not only does the WWF sponsor research projects with Inuit, it also has the ability to educate southerners about wildlife management in Nunavut.

“What a lot of people don’t understand is in the Arctic things are pretty much under control,” he says. “We do have a management regime established under the land claim.”

Amagoalik also said the WWF needs to educate Inuit about what its goals are and what the organization does.

“I think that’s being done,” he says. “They’ve been very honest with Inuit. I think it’s part of the whole healing process between aboriginal and other Canadians.”

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