John Hanks

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Former Africa Programme Director of the World Wide Fund for Nature.

In 1987, he and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands conceived a plan to undermine the ivory trade in Southern Africa named Operation Lock. Hanks hired David Stirling's KAS Enterprises for this purpose. It was later claimed the project was a front for South African attempts to undermine neighbouring states.[1]

WWF's international headquarters in Switzerland say that Operation Lock was a private matter between Dr Hanks and Prince Bernhard, carried out without the knowledge of WWF personnel. The full extent of Dr Hanks' involvement only became apparent by the middle of 1990, by which time he had returned to South Africa to take up a post as director of the South African Nature Foundation - the South African branch of WWF. Dr Hanks, a British citizen, had worked for 10 years in South Africa before taking up a post with WWF in Switzerland. As soon as the nature of his involvement in Operation Lock became clear, the current president of WWF International, Prince Philip, commissioned an independent inquiry. This is understood to have found that no WWF funds were spent on the project and no staff were aware of it other than Dr Hanks.
However, Ian Parker, an ivory consultant, says he was first consulted by Dr Hanks in January 1987 about investigating the rhino horn traffic. According to Mr Parker, Dr Hanks assured him that money could be provided in an unaccountable manner, channelled through companies and individuals, and that only Dr Hanks and the WWF director-general, Charles de Haes, would know about the project.[2]

Hanks was head of the South African Nature Foundation in 1991, when it proposed a cross-border nature reserve between South Africa and Mozambique. The scheme was considered for support by the World Bank.. [3]




  1. The SAS: Savage Wars of Peace, 1947 to the Present, by Anthony Kemp, John Murray (publishers) Ltd, 1994, pp203-204.
  2. Prince paid thousands into wildlife sting, Stephen Ellis, The Independent, 8 January 1991.
  3. Environment: The park of all problems, by Jonathan Caplan, The Guardian, 8 November 1991.