Luc (Hans Lukas) Hoffmann, ecologist, conservationist, born 23 January 1923; died 21 July 2016.
Luc Hoffmann, who has passed away aged 93, was one of the last surviving greats of 20th-century nature conservation. As co-founder of the World Wildlife Fund, he helped turn conservation from a parochial, insular pursuit into a truly international movement.
Luc was born in Basel, Switzerland. His grandfather, Fritz Hoffmann-La Roche, founded the pharmaceutical company of the same name in 1896. During his youth he developed a passion for the natural world, especially birds. He published his first academic paper – on the unlikely subject of migrant seabirds in the Basel region – at the age of 18 in 1941. That year, he began his studies in botany and zoology at the city’s university, but these were interrupted when he was conscripted into the Swiss army. Once the war was over, he returned to academic life, earning a PhD for his studies of the behaviour of common tern chicks in the Camargue.
Captivated by this unique wetland, in 1954 Hoffmann set up the Tour du Valat biological research station, which became one of the leading institutions of its kind in Europe. In 1961, Hoffmann was one of the signatories to a groundbreaking agreement that paved the way for the founding of the WWF, and he became the organisation’s first vice-president. In 1971 Hoffmann helped set up the Ramsar Convention, which for the first time provided cross-border protection for wetlands and their wildlife. Coming into force in 1975, the convention now covers 160 countries, making it one of the most effective measures to protect habitats across the globe.
In 1994, Hoffmann used his family wealth to endow the Mava Foundation, which continues to fund nature conservation projects around the globe. In 2012 Mava, along with the WWF, set up the Luc Hoffmann Institute, which focuses on the promotion of sustainable development in an increasingly globalised and profit-driven world. Continuing the philosophy of its founder, the institute concentrates on finding practical solutions that will benefit both nature and people.
Dr. Luc Hoffmann received the INTECOL International Award for Wetland Conservation during the 7th INTECOL International Wetland Conference in Utrecht in July 2004.
La Tour du Valat, July 29, 2016
The Guardian, August 1, 2016