In 2012, FIFA introduced the world to the mascot for the Brazil 2014 World Cup. Fuleco is an energetic, animated character inspired by the Brazilian three-banded armadillo. But, as yet, FIFA has made no direct contribution to the conservation of this endemic and highly threatened species.
I am a zoologist, science journalist and author and I write a lot about the relationship between animals and humans. When I heard about Fuleco, I was saddened to learn that FIFA had made no direct commitment to the conservation of the armadillo or its unique, scrubby habitat known as the Caatinga. I feel very strongly that each of us has a responsibility to do all we can to reduce our individual footprints on the planet and big profit-making institutions like FIFA have a duty to take their social responsibility much more seriously. I knew I wanted to sign an online petition. But there wasn't one. So I chose to act. Will you join me?
FIFA's Secretary General Jérôme Valcke described the choice of the three-banded armadillo as a “very fitting” mascot for Brazil 2014. “One of the key objectives...is to use the event as a platform to communicate the importance of the environment and ecology,” he said. But wouldn’t FIFA’s commitment to the environment and ecology be so much more credible if it channeled some of its World Cup profits into the conservation of the armadillo and the Caatinga?
This seems like a perfectly reasonable question. A clear financial commitment by FIFA towards the conservation of the Caatinga would not cost much and would bring long-term rewards to football’s governing body that would far outweigh the small dent to its profits.
It is a rare case of a win-win situation, one that is too good to miss. All that remains is for FIFA to seize the opportunity.
For more on the three-banded armadillo and the remarkable Caatinga, see this post on my Guardian blog Animal Magic and the website of the Caatinga Association.
Photograph courtesy of Liana Sena, Caatinga Association.
I acknowledge that FIFA is serious about its environmental responsibility. But I can think of few initiatives that would have more symbolic impact than support for the Caatinga, a unique ecosystem comprising over 800,000 km2 of which less than 1% is currently designated as protected area.
In the name of Fuleco, a fusion of the words “Futbol” and “Ecologia”, I urge FIFA to seize this win-win opportunity.