Questioning militarization is essential for successful and socially just conservation (commentary)
Commentary by Rosaleen Duffy on 16 October 2017
• It is important to question and critically analyze new directions in conservation, as failing to do so will undoubtedly lead to negative outcomes for people and wildlife. Justice for animals is not well served by perpetrating other injustices.
• I can agree that poaching is against the law and therefore is a crime. But the law is not a neutral or apolitical instrument. For example, the argument that wildlife laws are neutral instruments renders invisible the colonial origins of wildlife laws in Africa, which separated wildlife and people in ways that actively produce human-wildlife conflict today.
• It is useful and important to debate the problems of militarization, because this can and should shape policy and funding strategies for conservation.
• This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Constructive engagement with concerns about the rise in militarized forms of conservation are very welcome. I currently run a four-year project funded by the European Research Council, BIOSEC, which explores the growing challenges, problems, and issues raised by an integration of security logics with wildlife conservation.
Here I respond in brief to Niall McCann’s recent article, which criticized the questioning of militarization. But it is important to question and critically analyze new directions in conservation, as failing to do so will undoubtedly lead to negative outcomes for people and wildlife. Justice for animals is not well served by perpetrating other injustices.
It is claimed that my criticisms are based solely on an ideological position, but they are also based on realities of conservation practice on the ground. It is not helpful to separate out those working in conservation and those researching conservation — many of us operate in both worlds.
Our BIOSEC team undertakes research that is responsive to the concerns of conservation professionals on the ground — they point to the very same problems produced by militarized conservation that we have identified. This came through very strongly in our recent Knowledge Exchange workshop with conservation practitioners (a summary of those discussions can be found here).
Ivory desk globe. Photo Credit: Meredith Gore.
I can agree with McCann that rangers are in a very difficult position, indeed, especially in conflict areas where they risk their lives on a daily basis. That is the dominant narrative. But there are other ranger stories we wish to bring to light as our research progresses: the growing levels of stress, the lack of support for rangers suffering PTSD, rates of refusal and resistance because militarized conservation is not what they signed up for.
McCann’s article claims that critics of militarization insult rangers. This couldn’t be further from my intention. We need to understand the spectrum of ranger experiences. To do anything else is insulting.
Militarizing conservation can simply escalate conflict and violence (see research by Elizabeth Lunstrum and Francis Masse; Esther Marijnen and Judith Verweijen; as well as Bram Buscher and Maano Ramutsindela). We should also be aware of the risks that enhanced training and provision of weaponry can be turned back on wildlife, and increase rates of poaching.
McCann refers to the figure of ‘more than one thousand’ rangers killed in action, which originates from the campaigns of the Thin Green Line Foundation; but that is likely to be a significant underestimate — ranger deaths go unrecorded in some cases because of fears of negative publicity. Equally, we do not know how many suspected poachers have been killed. Put simply, these deaths are deemed not worthy of recording.
I can agree that poaching is against the law and is therefore a crime. But the law is not a neutral or apolitical instrument. For example, the argument that wildlife laws are neutral instruments renders invisible the colonial origins of wildlife laws in Africa, which separated wildlife and people in ways that actively produce human-wildlife conflict today (see work by Bill Adams and by Dan Brockington). Projecting a singular model of policing and military approaches across very different situations is also misleading and overlooks the ways that authorities can be involved in poaching and trafficking themselves.
Poverty may be a driver of poaching, but the evidence base for this is thin. In a review of evidence for the UK Government Department for International Development (DfID), we found that the poverty-poaching connection is assumed but not proven. Also, which matters more: absolute or relative levels of poverty? (Freya St John will be running a major study of this connection via her WILDPOV project.)
The argument that wildlife needs to be conserved because it can generate income from tourism is also problematic. I can agree that wildlife-based tourism can be a significant source of income, but we also need to examine where the money goes. There is an enormous body of work that shows that the income from wildlife tourism does not necessarily go to local communities, but is instead captured by elites, governments, and private companies.
It is useful and important to debate the problems of militarization, because this can and should shape policy and funding strategies for conservation. But that debate has to include those of us who question and criticize — this is essential for producing conservation which is successful and socially just.
Trafficked elephant feet. Photo by Rosaleen Duffy.
Rosaleen Duffy is a professor in the Department of Politics at the University of Sheffield in the UK. She leads the BIOSEC project, which examines claims by national governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that wildlife poaching and trafficking are increasingly being used to fund organized crime and terrorist groups.
Article published by Mike Gaworecki
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This article talks about rare examples of abuse by armed guards. These are not rare, in places like Kaziranga National Park in North East India these are the norm. A park guard told the BBC that they are “Fully ordered to shoot them, whenever you see the poachers or any people during night-time we are ordered to shoot them.” According to the Park’s own figures, fifty suspects were shot dead there since 2014. Although the official line is that the guards only fire in self defence, in the same period no park guards have been killed. In Kaziranga, poorly trained and poorly paid guards are given guns and told that they have immunity from prosecution for firearms offences. The same guards have often been found to be involved in poaching themselves. Does the militarization of conservation still sounds like a good idea?
The Amazon is finished. We We can only wait and watch the final destruction now. Sad, since if she was left alone she would recover and suck up huge amounts of carbon. A climax forest is in carbon equilibrium, not a source or a sink for Carbon. A recovering forest a huge sink. Since a very large portion of the rain that falls on the Amazon comes from transpiration of the trees, rainfall will decrease until an irreversible tipping point has been reached. Perhaps we have already reached it. It is only apparent in retrospect. In the past there were huge civilizations in the Amazon (pre Spanish) and when the people disappeared due to Spanish carried diseases, it recovered. It could do so agian.
Yes its good to talk about rainforest and all that. But you fail to forsee that without oil palm business, millions of indonesian will be out of jobs because that is their main source of income. You expect them to work in an office and all that? They are illiterate, with many that does not have any education! How can they qualify to work in different industries?! Why not talk how the west and europeans did at the cost of development for their country where they depleted their once vast natural forest?? Palm oil is cheap and many of the south east nation can afford to buy compared to olive oil where you westerners and europeans are rich enough to buy it!! Olive oil is considered as a luxurious goods in south east asia!! It is expensive and we prefer palm oil instead of olive oil.
When you visit the website you will find that they only seem to support efforts in 6 countries and there is not actually any way to apply. Step 1 The Tenure Facility invites project ideas from eligible proponents, based on opportunities identified by the Tenure Facility’s network and its own institutional knowledge. So it seems that they are just interested in funding projects they already know about and support. These sorts of funds really piss me off! Looks like a fine example of cronyism to me.
There is no zoo on the planet that can give elephants what they need to be happy and healthy and that is miles and miles of open space. The Zoo industry says it understands how to better take care of elephants these days, yet captive elephants continue to die young because of zoo related diseases. If zoos really cared about what’s best for elephants they would close their exhibits, retire their elephants to sanctuaries and spend more effort and money on stopping poaching. Zoos care about profits that gawking at captive elephants brings in, just like they always have.
(Continued from the previous post…) If Bangladesh set aside the total 6017 sq km of Sundarbans (only 4% of the total area of Bangladesh as mentioned above) as strict protected area where no one is allowed apart from pure ecological research even for ten years, tiger numbers will increase dramatically and health of the mangrove estuary and other associated wildlife will show all the healthy ecological signs. It’s not a rocket science, its simple. Just do not let people get into that 4% of the area and tigers will double or even quadruple their numbers in less than 12 years, its as simple as that and its really not much to ask either. All it takes is political will which unfortunately many economically poor countries do not have. Mohammed Ashraf Wildlife Ecologist www.equatorialbiomes.wordpress.com
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A great report. A depressing saga in its complexity and enormous scope but so representative of the way corporations and money work. Apart from the difficulties in bringing justice through the legal system perhaps the only way this pattern can change is when the corporations are named and shamed through public actions and demonstrations. Corporations like to fall back on the pathetic argument that they did not know about the abuses and wishing to have a good corporate image can be embarrassed into change. There is always the probability that they will leave everyone in the lurch and up stakes to transfer their funds and profit opportunities to somewhere else.
It’s a Great Blessing in stopping the illegal fishing from outsiders but,the people living there that’s been there survival for Generations, I don’t see them as the problem,or illegally taking from anyone,unless,they’re selling to the outsiders for profit. But,how are you gonna stop people from thier means survival? . And what about all those Cruise Ships ,the many Yahts, the Houseboats,the Fishing boats shouldn’t they stay out the waters at least for a few years to allow the Marine life a Chance to Reproduce itself?.
Clever way of doing things 😕< a href=”https://news.mongabay.com/2017/10/then-they-shot-me-land-conflict-and-murder-in-ucayali-peru/?utm_source=spotim&utm_medium=spotim_recirculation”>‘THEN THEY SHOT ME’: LAND CONFLICT AND MURDER IN UCAYALI, PERU< a href=”https://news.mongabay.com/2017/10/then-they-shot-me-land-conflict-and-murder-in-ucayali-peru/?utm_source=spotim&utm_medium=spotim_recirculation”>Flask< a href=”https://news.mongabay.com/2017/10/then-they-shot-me-land-conflict-and-murder-in-ucayali-peru/?utm_source=spotim&utm_medium=spotim_recirculation”>3d< a href=”https://news.mongabay.com/2017/10/then-they-shot-me-land-conflict-and-murder-in-ucayali-peru/?utm_source=spotim&utm_medium=spotim_recirculation”>Excellent article. Investors may be liable.<<<<<<