This is a quite detailed but fundamentally mis-directed and hugely naïve critique of those of us who believe militarised conservation and anti-poaching is not the answer to stopping the poaching of wildlife. It is poorly argued and misses the point that shooting poor poachers, even in countries with the death penalty, is summary justice and further antagonises and builds the sense of grievance of communities living alongside wildlife.  And what does he mean by a “civilized country” ?  Where does this arbitrary label come into discussions of conservation – civilised by whose standards?

I’m really not sure how the writer can argue that those who have built up strong, evidence-based arguments against militarisation are naïve – far from it. He has the naïve belief that deadly force and the willingness to use itroutinely is a good thing and will work. It hasn’t and it won’t in the future.  He also harks back to the spent and rather convenient ivory-insurgency link.  The LRA and Mai-Mai may take small numbers of elephants and trade tusks. LRA maybe 35 elephants a year and Mai-Mai opportunistically. They are not significant drivers of the illegal ivory trade or poaching, except on a highly localised basis in parts of the DRC. He cites the largely inaccurate Born Free C4ads study to support this. The study accepted the Al Shabaab and Boko Haram myths without question and is not a good source –  it is a campaigning document and not peer-reviewed research –  on LRA, Mai-Mai and Mali.  Elephants are poached at times of conflict, but this does not mean ivory fuels terrorism or funds insurgent groups; at most, with LRA and Mai-Mai it is an opportunistic means of making money on the side and does not materially affect the conflicts in which they are involved or the continental future of the elephant.

Overall, a poor piece of work but one that should be read and forensically picked apart.  It accuses professor Professor Ros Duffy of being “guilty of multiple errors of generalization and sins of omission”.  Like the naivety charge it is one that rebounds on the author.  This is particularly so when it comes to the superficial approach to the human costs of militarised anti-poaching and the counter-productive effect on local communities which places them directly in conflict with conservation, as conservation is seen as those who barass, beat, rape and kill villagers as part of anti-poaching operations and shoot poachers on sight.  There is no legal death penalty for poaching.  he also accepts without question the arbitrary labelling of traditional hunting by some communities as crimes. This approach developed when colonial rulers wanted wildlife reserved for the sport or commercial utilisation by European hunters and settlers; something done at the point of the gun and with no element of consultation or consent. The criminalisation, victimisation and alienation under colonialism and since independence, too, of communities who live with wildlife from and their loss of ownership, empowerment and the failure to consult them when it comes to the utilisation of wildlife resources by governments and the international NGOs which are so influential, is one of the prime reasons that human-wildlife coexistence and conflict becomes community-conservation conflict to the detriment of realistic, sustainable conservation. KS


Attacks on ‘militarized conservation’ are naive (commentary)