So, as the CEO of the company most strongly associated with an animal, it was perhaps not so surprising when Rene's son Michel decided to join the Save Your Logo campaign. The program helps private companies protect the biodiversity of the planet by committing to the preservation of the animal that appears on their logo.
Lacoste was in Nepal this week to see the gharials in Chitwan, the first beneficiaries of his company's $500,000 contribution to Save Your Logo.
Gharials, distinguished by their long, narrow snouts, aren't technically the species depicted on Lacoste's preppy shirts. But they are the most endangered species of the reptile family; there are only a few hundred individuals left in
"They belong to the same family," said Lacoste. "We have some gharials, some alligators, and some caimans. What puts them all together is more important than what separates them."
Lacoste was the first company to join the Save Your Logo campaign. Chitwan was chosen as its first site because the national park has already made a strong push for preservation through its gharial breeding centre. Along with contributions from the World Bank, the Global Environmental Facility, the International Union for Nature Conservation and the Endowment Fund for Biodiversity, the campaign for crocodiles will be extended to China and the southern USA.
In Nepal, Lacoste's contribution will go towards preserving and increasing the gharial population in Chitwan and Bardiya. About 80 gharials live in the rivers of Chitwan today, a surprisingly small number considering 800 have been
released from the breeding centre over the last 10 years.
The main threats to the gharial population are the decline in the fish population and dams, where gharials often get stuck while swimming downstream. Pollution in rivers is also increasingly a problem. "It is ironic that a French company is investing to save gharials here while Nepali factories continue to pollute the rivers where they live," said Prashant Singh of the World Wildlife Fund in Nepal.
Until the industries change their ways, the long-nosed beasts can be assured of Lacoste's affection. As he put it: "After all, the crocodile is my father. When I look at a crocodile, I cannot help thinking about him."