For more than half a century, Dr Luc Hoffmann was a champion for the conservation of nature

Dr Luc Hoffmann spent most of his life working to protect the environment


An ardent ornithologist from early childhood, Dr Luc Hoffmann obtained a PhD from Basel University in Zoology and authored more than 60 books and publications on birds and their habitats.

In 1951, he set up Station Biologique de la Tour du Valat in France’s Camargue region, a private research institute devoted to the study and management of wetlands renowned in Europe and the world. Along with fellow researchers at Tour du Valat, he conducted the early studies of waterbird populations and wetland ecology.

In 1961, Dr Hoffmann became WWF International’s first Vice-President, a position he held until 1988. He also served as Director of Wetlands International, Vice-President of IUCN and established the Fondation Internationale du Banc d’Arguin in West Africa. He was a key figure in the original fight to save Spain’s Coto Doñana and a driving force behind the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

To address some of the planet’s most difficult environmental challenges, WWF and the MAVA Foundation established the Luc Hoffmann Institute in 2012 to honour Dr Hoffmann’s visionary work and design innovative conservation solutions.

Dr Luc Hoffmann 1923-2016

The Economist on Luc Hoffmann Lifetime achievements


Dr Luc Hoffmann is the author of over 60 publications in the field of ornithology, wetlands ecology and conservation.

1954 Founded Station Biologique de la Tour du Valat in the Camargue (South of France), a private research institute devoted to the study and management of Wetlands. He was the Managing Director of the Station for 20 years.
1958 Began to collaborate with IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and was the Vice-President from 1960 – 1969.
1960 Initiated a campaign to save the Marismas of the Guadalquivir, with J.A. Valverde. This led to WWF and the Spanish Government purchasing the Coto Donana in 1964 and in 1969, the Donana National Park was created.
Held discussions with E.M. Nicholson and Peter Scott for the establishment of an international fund to support conservation, and in September 1961, together with several other conservationists, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), (now known as the World Wide Fund for Nature), was created. Dr Hoffmann was Vice President of the Board of WWF International from 1961 to 1988, (Executive Vice President of the Board from 1971 to 1978) and from 1988 served as WWF’s Vice President Emeritus.
1961 Directed the MAR Project, a joint IUCN/ICBP/IWRB programme for the conservation and management of temperate wetlands. In 1963, the first winter waterfowl counts were organised in the Mediterranean, including in Greece, which led to the discovery, on Lake Karla, of the greatest waterfowl concentration seen in the Mediterranean on a single lake. The MAR project resulted in the intensification and generalisation of waterfowl counts, in the creation of an inventory of wetlands and ultimately, in an international convention for the protection of wetlands of international importance, known as the Ramsar Convention, which was signed in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran.
1962 – 1969 Honorary Director of the International Wildfowl Research Bureau (IWRB), now called Wetlands International, and was Director Emeritus since 1970.
1966 – 1969 Vice President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
1970 Actively took part in the creation of the Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue. He held different positions in the Board and commissions until 1996.
1971 Published with W. Bauer and G. Müller “Proposals for nature conservation in Northern Greece”, which led to the establishment of the Prespa National Park and attracted attention on Evros. In December 1990, the Society for the Protection of Prespa was created, of which Dr Hoffmann was President until 2002. In 2003, he was appointed Honorary President.
1974 Created Tour du Valat Foundation with the aim of conducting and promoting scientific research with special references to conservation and management of wetlands communities in the Camargue and around the Mediterranean.
1979 Became Vice President of the Wildfowl Trust UK and Honorary Life Fellow in 1983.
1982 – 1996 Board Member of WWF France and a member of its Scientific Committee. He was President of WWF France from 1996 to December 2000, and then served as Honorary President.
1984 – 1988 Chairman of the Conservation Committee of WWF International, and from 1984 to 1990 he was also a member of the Executive Committee of the International Council for Bird Preservation (ICBP), now called Birdlife International.
1986 Created Fondation Internationale du Banc d’Arguin (FIBA), whose mission is to strengthen the Banc d’Arguin in Mauritania, the largest marine coastal park in Africa. He was President of FIBA until 2001, and later, President Emeritus. In 2002, FIBA created the Programme Régional Côtier Marin (PRCM) for West Africa.
1994 Participated in the establishment of WWF Greece and was a member of the Board until 2001.
1994 Created the MAVA foundation for the protection of nature and became Chairman of its Board.
2003 The Luc Hoffmann chair in field ornithology at the Edward Grey Institute at Oxford University was established.
2004 Wetlands International created the Luc Hoffmann Medal for Excellence in Wetland Science and Conservation.

Honorary Awards

1981 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
1986 Honorary Member, WWF International
1989 Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, France
1989 Commander of the Order of the Golden Ark, Netherlands
1990 Doctor honoris causa, University of Basel, Switzerland
1992 Doctor honoris causa, University of Thessaloniki, Greece
1993 Österreichisches Ehrenkreuz für Wissenschaft und Kunst 1. Klasse, Austria
1993 Pro Natura Dij, Hungary
1993 Konrad Lorenz medallion of the Konrad Lorenz Gesellschaft, Austria
1994 Kai-Curry-Lindhal Award of the Colonial Waterbird Society, USA
1998 Officier de l’Ordre du Mérite National, République Islamique de Mauritanie
1998 Officer, Order of Honour, Greece
1998 Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal (WWF International)
2003 Honorary Citizen of the Demos of Prespa, Greece
2004 Honorary Citizen of the Commune of Nouamghar, Mauritania
2004 European Prize for Culture
2004 John C. Philips Medal (IUCN)
2004 Intecol International Wetlands Award
2004 Fellow of the American Ornithologists Union, USA
2005 Byron Antipas Award of the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature, Greece
2007 Euronatur Award
2009 BirdLife International: President’s Medal
2009 His majesty the King of Spain: Medal Isabelle the Catholic
2010 Ala – Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Vogelkunde + Vogelschutz: nominated honorary member
2010 President Emeritus MAVA Foundation (15 June 2010)
2010 Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue: honorary Seden
2010 Officier de la Légion d’Honneur, France
2012 Ramsar, Honory Award, Bucharest, Rumania
2013 Business School Lausanne, Honorary doctorate
2014 Zayed International Prize for the Environment: category III: Environmental Action Leading to Positive Change.

Luc has played central roles in many other institutions, from the Ramsar Convention to IUCN. His passion has been an inspiration to legions of conservationists and many of the Earth’s most extraordinary places are intact today because of his vision and commitment. We are proud to honour his contributions with the creation of this Institute.

Jim Leape, Former Director General of WWF International

(Left to right) Archbishop Dr Desmond Tutu, Yolanda Kakabadse, President Emeritus of WWF International, and Dr Luc Hoffmann, a co-founder of WWF at the WWF 50th Anniversary Gala Celebrations in Zurich 29th April 2011.

Main image: Dr Luc Hoffmann. Photo © WWF International

Luc Hoffmann InstituteAbout Dr Luc Hoffmann