The loss of Dr Luc Hoffmann

The loss of Dr Luc Hoffmann

22 July 2016
Switzerland

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Luc Hoffman (Photo credit: Tour du Valat)

It is with great sadness that the friends of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands have learned of the passing of Dr Luc Hoffmann at the age of 93. Dr Hoffmann passed away on the 21st of July in the place dear to his heart - Camargue, France

Dr Hoffmann has been one of the most significant contributors to the Ramsar Convention, as a founding father, through his scientific and strategic contributions, and also through important financial contributions.

He has also been the co-founder and/or key supporter of two of the International Organisation Partners (IOPs) of the Convention: WWF and Wetlands International. In addition to his key role in the development of the IOPs, he created three key wetland conservation organisations: the Tour du Valat biological station in the French Camargue (1954), the FIBA (Fondation du Banc d’Arguin, 1984) and the MAVA Foundation (1994). A conservation pioneer, he participated in the first steps towards the creation of an international treaty for wetlands since the start of the MAR project in 1961. Dr Hoffmann has also been a leading figure in the conservation of such iconic wetlands as the Camargue in France, Coto Doñana in Spain, and Prespa (Albania, FYR of Macedonia and Greece).

He was a lifelong passionate naturalist, a pioneer and visionary scientist who dedicated himself to the conservation of nature.

For the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands his passing is a great loss.  As Isaac Newton said, “If I can see far, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” and in the realm of wetlands, Dr Luc Hoffmann was indeed a giant.

An online memorial book has been set up by the Mava Foundation here. Please feel free to contribute your thoughts to this celebration of Luc Hoffmann’s life and accomplishments. Condolences for the family may be sent to

Luc Hoffmann biography

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In 2012 Dr Hoffmann was awarded the 40th Anniversary Honorary Ramsar Award as a tribute from the Ramsar community to this benevolent figure who has accompanied the Convention from its conception to its maturity.

On this occasion Luc Hoffmann gave the following interview:

You are often referred to as one of the founding fathers of the Ramsar Convention.  What was the path that led to the idea of creating a Convention, then to its becoming reality?

The idea was proposed by attendants of the conference on wetlands in 1962 in Saintes Maries de la Mer and formulated as a recommendation. Since I was the organizer of the conference, I have then tried to find support by governments and intergovernmental organisations.

Ed. Note: The initial call for an international convention on wetlands came in 1962 during a conference which formed part of Project MAR, a programme established in 1960 following concern at the rapidity with which large stretches of marshland and wetlands in Europe were being "reclaimed" or otherwise destroyed, with a resulting decline in numbers of waterfowl.

The MAR Conference was organized by Mr Luc Hoffmann, with the participation of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (now IUCN), the International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau, IWRB (now Wetlands International), and the International Council for Bird Preservation, ICBP (now BirdLife International), and was held in Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer in the French Camargue, 12-16 November 1962.

The breadth of your achievements and influence is breath-taking.  It is obvious you have a wide vision of conservation.  What gave you this broad perception?  And what motivated you to dedicate your life to conservation?

I was always interested in nature and was inspired by personalities like Max Nicholson, Peter Scott and François Bourlière.

Why do wetlands interest you in particular?

There was an emotional predilection for wetlands, and also the fact that wetlands were neglected by naturalists.

In your opinion, what is the value (and the contribution) of the Ramsar Convention to wetland and water conservation?

The Ramsar Convention is a very important contribution to sensibilisation for wetlands, to the study of wetlands and to the conservation of particularly valuable areas.

What does the 40th anniversary Honorary Ramsar Award mean to you?

This is proof that if you insist on a process, you reach success.

Do you have any general messages about the importance of wise use of wetlands?

Wetlands play an important part in the functioning of nature but they can only play this part if they are wisely used. Therefore wise use is as important as preservation.

During the 40th anniversary year of the Convention, the Camargue was chosen as the locality for the annual meeting of the French Ramsar actors to commemorate the international conference of the project MAR (from “marshes, marécages, marismas”). Throughout his life, Luc Hoffmann contributed scientifically, strategically and financially to wetland conservation and to the establishment and the further development of the Ramsar Convention--besides his many other achievements. A special evening was set up in the Camargue to honour him.

In your opinion, what are the most important aspects of your achievements that you would like to see highlighted in the context of this award?

With the pressure for destruction of wetlands increasing, we need to extend wetlands observatories to intensify permanent observation of wetlands.