Sonja Bata leaves an eternal legacy in conservation | WWF-Canada

Sonja Bata leaves an eternal legacy in conservation

Posted on 22 February 2018
Sonja Bata
Sonja Bata
© Michal Sváček
TORONTO, Feb. 22, 2018 — Everyone at World Wildlife Fund Canada is saddened by the passing of Sonja Bata, who was key to the establishment of WWF in Canada through her leadership as former board chair and her innumerable intellectual, social and financial contributions. 
Megan Leslie, president and CEO of WWF-Canada says: 
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Sonja Bata, and so grateful for her contributions to conservation in Canada. Our condolences go out to her family and all those who knew her. World Wildlife Fund could not have succeeded in Canada for more than 50 years without Mrs. Bata’s contributions. Her passion for the environment and her hard-working professionalism helped WWF build profile, raise millions of dollars and protect important ecosystems and wildlife in Canada and around the world. Mrs. Bata’s legacy will last for eternity in the wildlife and wild places that will continue to thrive because of her efforts.” 
Monte Hummel, president emeritus of WWF-Canada and head of the organization when Mrs. Bata was chair, said:  
“When Sonja Bata undertook a project, she gave it her full attention and effort. She could do more hard work — aware of every detail and meeting the highest standards in a limited amount of time — than anyone I have known. Sonja helped establish WWF as a conservation leader in the Arctic, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for our first conservation program. She demonstrated what’s possible when people harness their passions and foster deeper connections to nature within their networks to create a prosperous future for the planet.” 
Among Mrs. Bata’s many accomplishments with WWF: 
  • Her role as a WWF patron started in 1971 with an invitation to join WWF International’s board of trustees from founding president, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. 
  • As a board member and board chair, her fundraising contributions helped secure a future for WWF-International and WWF-Canada. 
  • In the mid-seventies, she personally travelled north to organize one of the first international Inuit print programs, working with the Cape Dorset Co-operative to sell limited-edition portfolios around the world to raise nearly $500,000 for WWF’s Arctic Program in Canada.” 
  • She confirmed donations from 35 Canadians to WWF International’s ambitious $10-million endowment fund. 
  • She led a similar initiative for WWF-Canada in 1982. The $1-million endowment called “200 Canadians for Wildlife” advanced WWF’s conservation work with essential funding for operating costs, which continues today. 
  • She leveraged her connections to heads of state around the world — formed through the global reach of the Bata shoe business — to advocate for environmental legislation on behalf of WWF. After an encounter with Indira Gandhi, for example, the Indian prime minister established protected areas for tigers. 
  • She facilitated the publication of WWF’s pioneering educational resources that taught youth, students and educators around the world how to live more sustainably and take action for nature, shaping a generation of environmental stewards. 
  • With the help of her daughter Rosemarie, she organized an art exhibit with more than 100 donated pieces that raised $400,000 for Whales Beneath the Ice, WWF-Canada’s first conservation program. 
  • The program established WWF-Canada’s leadership position in Arctic conservation. It helped: 
    • Pioneer previously unknown techniques to study whales. 
    • Protect Isabella Bay on North Baffin Island for bowhead whales and Arctic river estuaries for summering belugas. 
    • Advance the discovery of seasonal movements of narwhal. 
  • Mrs. Bata’s five-year commitment to WWF-Canada’s Arctic Species Conservation Fund, made in 2017, will continue to support new discoveries about the narwhal through 2022. 
About World Wildlife Fund Canada 
WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more information, visit
For further information 
Philippe Devos, director of communications and media, +1 416 453 0092
Sonja Bata
Sonja Bata
© Michal Sváček Enlarge
Sonja Bata
Sonja Bata, right, with Prince Philip, centre, and Monte Hummel, head of WWF-Canada, in 1982.
© WWF-Canada Enlarge
Sonja and Thomas Bata in Antarctica in 1978
Sonja and Thomas Bata in Antarctica in 1978
© Image courtesy of the Bata Shoe Museum Enlarge