Our hearts were saddened yesterday by the news of Luc Hoffmann’s passing.
We don’t usually indulge in eulogies. Our tributes and expression of sympathy remain confined to the private of our lives. But this time it’s just… different.
Luc was a singular man, with immense vision, passion and dedication. Co-founder of WWF, founding father of the RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands, he was one of the pillars of nature conservation of our time. His passion for birds and biodiversity led him to create innovative mechanisms to secure the conservation of our fragile planet and channel an incredibly generous amount of his wealth into the MAVA Foundation for nature conservation.
His love for birds led him to secure incredible gains for conservation. Whether it was securing the future of Greater Flamingos in the Camargue in France, migratory shorebirds at Banc d’Arguin in Mauritania, or the Spanish Imperial Eagle of Doñana in Spain, Luc had the vision and the courage to push for conservation solutions that have exemplified ‘sustainability’.
A world class birder, Luc also embodied BirdLife’s key principles: like us, he believed thatscience is the foundation of action; like us he loved birds and their migrations, and their relationship with wetlands helped guide his conservation efforts; like us he believed that conservation can only happen when we join forces and work together in partnership.
Luc’s passing hits the BirdLife family personally. He was one of us: a founding patron of BirdLife, a member of our Executive Committee, and one of our Vice Presidents who helped to model BirdLife as it is now. As such he was a crucial pillar of our organisation and a hero who received our highest recognition, BirdLife’s President’s Medal, in 2008 during the BirdLife Congress in Argentina.
Anecdotes on his dedication and efforts to save nature are countless. In a seminal birding expedition to West Africa as a young man, he visited the Banc d’Arguin. He recognised the area’s exceptional nature and its global importance, and through MAVA, his indomitable spirit, and powerful political connections, Luc drove the conservation of this unique place and its incredible avian assemblage.
Similarly, his support to Francisco Bernis resulted in the creation of Doñana National Park in Spain, an IBA (Important Bird & Biodiversity Area) and a crucial spot for the migration of birds between Europe and Africa. BirdLife in Spain, SEO, honoured Luc in 2000 for his instrumental support to the creation of the Park. Now, following Luc’s legacy SEO continues to play a crucial role in the protection of Doñana.
Luc was, by all accounts, unaffected by the trappings of wealth and power. We remember him also for his preference to stay in humble pensions and cheap hotels close to the coast, rather than in the presidential suites at five-star hotels. He refused to give publicity to his work, family or the foundation named after his children. He didn’t want accolades or praise; he wanted outcomes, for birds and conservation – but he deserved and received both.
Luc Hoffmann loved birds, nature, arts. He loved life. He will be sorely missed.