FIFA has been eager to portray itself as a champion of the environment but Brazilian activists have called them out with charges of hypocrisy when it comes to the tournament's mascot.
Rodrigo Castro, one of the leaders of an organization that seeks to preserve the endangered three-banded armadillo or tatu-bola, claims that FIFA has failed to show a financial commitment to saving the animal on which its mascot Fuleco is based.
According to Yahoo Brasil, Castro, executive secretary of Brazilian environmental group the Caatinga Association, told a Portuguese-language website that it took 16 months of negotiation for FIFA, a billion-dollar organization, to offer money to environmental groups working toward preservation of the tatu-bola. But the offer of $300,000 was reportedly considered too low to make any kind of difference and was rejected. What's more, the amount would not be donated until 2024.
"Within 40 years, people will remember the games and the Cup champion, maybe even remember the mascot Fuleco," Castro said. "But this time the three-banded armadillo may be extinct, and people will not remember him."
While Castro's organization is hoping a new offer arrives before the end of the tournament, he told the website VOXXI that FIFA was exploiting the armadillo for financial gain:
“It is not ethical,” said Castro, whose group's helped campaign for the tatu-bola as the tournament mascot.
“You cannot exploit the image of an animal that is nearing extinction to make millions and then give nothing back.”
Castro and other environmentalists have issued proposals to FIFA for a system that would see a small portion of revenue accrued from Fuleco merchandise sales diverted to a conservation fund. However, nothing has been forthcoming so far, save for $45,000 donated toward the Caatinga Association’s tatu-bola project from tournament sponsor Continental Tires.
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Castro said he hoped FIFA would contribute around 15 percent of the estimated $12 million cost to fund a 10-year plan to save the armadillo.
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