Luc Hoffmann and the institute

Dr. Luc Hoffmann helped pioneer the modern conservation movement. An ardent ornithologist from early childhood, Luc 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 the Tour du Valat biological station in France’s Camargue region, a research institute devoted to the study and management of wetlands. Along with fellow researchers at Tour du Valat, he conducted the early studies of waterbird populations and wetland ecology.

In 1961, Luc became WWF International’s first Vice-President, a position that he held until 1988. He also served as Director of Wetlands International, Vice-President of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (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.

Luc believed science was the foundation for action but understood the wider reality of preserving life on Earth – that problem-solving needs to be coordinated and take into account different perspectives, and that sustainable development must encompass both nature and people. Passionate and modest, he was not afraid to experiment with different, innovative approaches and to mix science, art, music and diplomacy to achieve results. Partnership and collaboration at all levels of society were key to Luc, who often sent handwritten notes of encouragement to people he saw doing innovative work.

In 1994, Dr Hoffmann created the MAVA Foundation to help safeguard iconic places like the Camargue and Doñana. MAVA has since grown into a professional foundation, becoming a key funder of global conservation efforts. In 2012, MAVA and WWF established the Luc Hoffmann Institute to help mobilise world-class thinking in science, policy and practice to improve the impact of conservation.

In 2017, the institute became a more independent department of WWF International, focussed on enabling collaboration between disciplines, and committed to assessing, analysing and resolving complex environmental challenges to make change possible. 

It is a privilege as well as a great responsibility for the institute to carry the Luc Hoffmann name. His kind of thought leadership and systems thinking at the heart of the Luc Hoffmann Institute way. The institute carries Luc’s ethic of sustainable development for the well being of both nature and people. Just as Luc would have been an incubator of innovative solutions had incubators existed in his time, so does the Luc Hoffmann Institute aim to incubate transformative ideas and approaches to maintain life on Earth. 

To achieve its vision and mission, the institute remains closely aligned with the WWF Network. The institute director is a member of WWF International’s senior management team and WWF’s Global Science Leadership Team. WWF International generously hosts the institute’s head office in the building of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in Gland, Switzerland. The institute also has a strong relationship with the UN Environment – World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) in Cambridge, United Kingdom, and has an office in the same David Attenborough Building, home to the world’s largest cluster of conservation organisations.


“The Luc Hoffmann Institute is a catalyst for change. Bringing together scientists, policymakers and conservation practitioners, it offers fresh perspectives that challenge the status quo and show us how we can build a sustainable future for people and nature.”

Lynda Mansson, Director General, MAVA

Related reading

The Economist on Luc Hoffmann Lifetime achievements

The Ecologist article on Luc Hoffmann